John Burnett John Burnett is the Southwest Correspondent on the National Desk.
John Burnett
Steve Barrett/N/A

John Burnett

Southwest Correspondent, National Desk

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news, and features, and does investigative reporting. Though he is assigned to the National Desk, his beat has sometimes stretched around the world.

In 2012, he spent five months in Nairobi as the East Africa Correspondent. His special reporting projects have included New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, and many reports on the 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 has reported from more than 30 different countries since 1986. His 2008 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 Uncivilized Beasts & Shameless Hellions: Travels with an NPR Correspondent was published by Rodale Press. In that year, he also served as a 2006 Ethics Fellow at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida.

In 2004, Burnett won a national Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for investigative reporting for his story on the accidental U.S. bombing of an Iraqi village. In 2003, he was an embedded reporter with the First Marine Division during the invasion of Iraq. 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 detailed the emergence of Central America as a major drug smuggling region. But listeners may say that one of his best remembered reports is an audio postcard he filed while on assignment in Peshawar, Pakistan, about being at six-foot-seven the "tallest American at a Death to America" rally.

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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Donations Grow For Funds That Pay To Get Migrants Out Of ICE Detention

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In this June 17, 2018 file photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody on charges of illegal entry sit in cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas. U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector/AP hide caption

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector/AP

Detained Fathers Turn To Hunger Strike

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Migrant Parents Launch Hunger Strike In Detention Centers

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Family Reunion Update

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Hundreds Of Families Still Separated As Reunification Deadline Passes

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People released from immigration detention centers are often dropped off at the McAllen bus station in Texas. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Hundreds Of Families Still Separated As Reunification Deadline Arrives

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All day, unmarked white vans and chartered buses carrying the migrant children released from shelters across the country roll into the parking lot of the Port Isabel Detention Center in south Texas. David J. Phillip/AP hide caption

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David J. Phillip/AP

Under Deadline, Government Scrambles To Reunite Migrant Families

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An immigrant wears an ankle monitor as he sits at a shelter in McAllen, Texas after he was released after processing by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Eric Gay/AP hide caption

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Eric Gay/AP

'Alternatives To Detention' Are Cheaper Than Jails, But Cases Take Far Longer

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Government Lawyers Say Some Migrant Children Are Ineligible For Reunification

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Only Around Half Of 'Tender Age' Children Will Be Reunited With Parents By Deadline

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ACLU Family Separation Hearing

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ICE Has New Ways To Keep Asylum-Seekers And Their Kids Apart, Critics Say

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Garry Mead, assistant director of detention and removal for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, answers a reporter's question in 2007 in front of cells that housed immigrant families at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas. After a suit by the ACLU, the center ended family detention, and ICE mostly avoided it until 2014. LM Otero/AP hide caption

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LM Otero/AP

The U.S. Has A Long, Troubled History Of Detaining Families Together

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