John Burnett John Burnett is the Southwest Correspondent on the National Desk.
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John Burnett

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John Burnett at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., September 27, 2018. (photo by Allison Shelley)
Allison Shelley/NPR

John Burnett

Southwest Correspondent, National Desk

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, he won an Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat, and he was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.

Though he is assigned to the National Desk, his beat has sometimes stretched around the world.

He has filed stories from more than 30 countries since joining NPR in 1986. In 2012, he spent five months in Nairobi as the East Africa Correspondent, followed by a stint during 2013 as the network's religion reporter. His special reporting projects have included working in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina, as an embedded reporter with the First Marine Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and continuing coverage of the U.S. drug war in the Americas. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

Burnett's 2008 groundbreaking four-part series "Dirty Money"—which examined how law enforcement agencies have gotten hooked on and, in some cases, corrupted by seized drug money—won three national awards: a Scripps Howard National Journalism Award for Investigative Reporting, a Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists Award for Investigative Reporting, and an Edward R. Murrow Award for the accompanying website. His 2007 three-part series "The Forgotten War," which took a critical look at the nation's 30-year war on drugs, won a Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for Excellence in Reporting on Drug and Alcohol Problems.

In 2006, Burnett's memoir, Uncivilized Beasts & Shameless Hellions: Travels with an NPR Correspondent, was published by Rodale Press. In that year, he also served as an Ethics Fellow at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida.

In 2004, Burnett won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting for his story on the accidental U.S. bombing of an Iraqi village. His work was singled out by judges for the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award honoring the network's overall coverage of the Iraq War. Also in 2003, Burnett won a first place National Headliner Award for investigative reporting about corruption among federal immigration agents on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In the months following the attacks of September 11, Burnett reported from New York City, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. His reporting contributed to coverage that won the Overseas Press Club Award and an Alfred I. duPont Columbia University Award.

In 2001, Burnett reported and produced a one-hour documentary, "The Oil Century," for KUT-FM in Austin, which won a silver prize at the New York Festivals. He was a visiting faculty member in broadcast journalism at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in 2002 and 1997. He received a Ford Foundation Grant in 1997 for a special series on sustainable development in Latin America.

Burnett's favorite stories are those that reveal a hidden reality. He recalls happening upon Carlos Garcia, a Mexico City street musician who plays a musical leaf, a chance encounter that brought a rare and beautiful art form to a national audience. In reporting his series "Fraud Down on the Farm," Burnett spent nine months investigating the abuse of the United States crop insurance system and shining light on surprising stories of criminality.

Abroad, his report on the accidental U.S. Air Force bombing of the Iraqi village of Al-Taniya, an event that claimed 31 lives, helped listeners understand the fog of war. His "Cocaine Republics" series in 2004 was one of the first accounts to detail the emergence of Central America as a major drug smuggling region. But many listeners remember the audio postcard he filed while on assignment in Peshawar, Pakistan, after 9/11 about what it was like being, at six-foot-seven, the "tallest American at a Death-to-Americarally."

Prior to coming to NPR, Burnett was based in Guatemala City for United Press International covering the Central America civil wars. From 1979-1983, he was a general assignment reporter for various Texas newspapers.

Burnett graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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Story Archive

Jose Eduardo hugs his 15-year-old daughter Yaimy, 10 months after they were separated at the U.S. border. John Burnett/NPR hide caption

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John Burnett/NPR

A Honduran Father Is Reunited With His Daughter, 10 Months After Being Separated

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Honduran migrants surrender to the U.S. Border Patrol after crossing a border wall into the United States. According to new federal data, the number of migrants apprehended crossing the border in recent months has surged. Ramon Espinosa/AP hide caption

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Ramon Espinosa/AP

Migrant Families Arrive In Busloads As Border Crossings Hit 10-Year High

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Humanitarian Crisis At The Southern Border Builds, Border Patrol Says

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In 2017 the Trump Administration put up eight border wall prototypes to demonstrate the "next generation" of border barriers. On Wednesday, all but one were demolished. Max Rivlin-Nadler for NPR hide caption

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Max Rivlin-Nadler for NPR

Rep. Ted Deutch Releases Details Of Sexually Abused Migrant Children

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Children line up to enter a tent at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children. Once youth turn 18, they are aged out of the children's shelter and are at risk of being placed in an adult detention facility. Wilfredo Lee/AP hide caption

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Wilfredo Lee/AP

Migrant Youth Go From A Children's Shelter To Adult Detention On Their 18th Birthday

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Nearly 1,600 teenage migrants are housed at a temporary emergency shelter in Florida run by a for-profit company. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hide caption

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Florida Shelter Is Scrutinized For The Way It Handles Migrant Children

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An asylum-seeking boy from Central America runs down a hallway in December after arriving at a shelter in San Diego. Immigrant advocates say they are suing the U.S. government for allegedly detaining immigrant children too long and improperly refusing to release them to relatives. Gregory Bull/AP hide caption

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Gregory Bull/AP

Lawsuits Allege 'Grave Harm' To Immigrant Children In Detention

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Lawsuit Alleges Migrant Children Are Used To Catch Other Undocumented Immigrants

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Trump Pitches 3-Year Extention Of DACA Protections For Border Wall Funding

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Teen migrants wait in line inside the Tornillo detention camp in Tornillo, Texas, in December 2018. Andres Leighton/AP hide caption

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Andres Leighton/AP

Federal Immigration Agents Separated More Migrant Children Than Previously Thought

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Darling Adalid Mercado, 19 (center), left his home in Ocotepeque, Honduras, three months ago to flee town thugs who wanted to recruit him. Guillermo Arias for NPR hide caption

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Guillermo Arias for NPR

A Waiting Game For Immigrants And Border Agents On 2 Sides Of The Wall

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Central American Migrants In Tijuana Consider If Long Journey Was Worth The Effort

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Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott stands near an old border monument at the base of the San Ysidro Mountains in southern San Diego County where current fencing ends. John Francis Peters for NPR hide caption

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John Francis Peters for NPR

Border Patrol Makes Its Case For An Expanded 'Border Barrier'

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