John Burnett John Burnett is the Southwest Correspondent on the National Desk.
Allison Shelley/NPR
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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Finally Reunited With Her Child, Migrant Mother Has A Warning For Caravan

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Some South Texas Residents Puzzled Over Trump's Warnings About Migrant Caravan

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Tensions Are Rising Along The U.S.-Mexico Border

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Load Trail has had a hard time hiring welders to fabricate its trailers since Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested about a quarter of its workforce in August. John Burnett/NPR hide caption

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After ICE Raid, A Shortage Of Welders In Tigertown, Texas

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Honduran migrants walk toward Tecún Umán, a Guatemalan town along the Mexican border, as they leave Guatemala City on Thursday. Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Talks Of Family Separation Spur Following A Migrant Caravan Heading For The U.S. Border

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Juan Pablo Romero (right), founder and director of Los Patojos, talks with current student Christopher Alvarado, who participates in the construction and maintenance of the new campus during the mornings in Jocotenango, Guatemala. James Rodriguez for NPR hide caption

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Seeds Of Maya Genius Grow In A New Kind Of School

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An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent walks down the aisle among shackled Mexican immigrants on board a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement charter jet for deportation. LM Otero/AP hide caption

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Funding The Immigration Crackdown At An 'Unsustainable Rate'

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ICE Air: The Airline You Never Want To Fly

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Sara Cano with five of her six kids in front of her home in San Antonio Las Nubes, Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Her husband, Oscar Leonel Lopez, tried to immigrate to the U.S. but was deported back home. Marisa Penaloza/NPR hide caption

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In the village of Quilin Novillo, the houses are billboards for the American dream. One is painted red, white and blue, with stars and stripes. John Burnett/NPR hide caption

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Despite Dangers, Intimidation, Guatemalans Still Seek A Better Life In U.S.

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A West Texas tent shelter for unaccompanied minor immigrants in Tornillo, Texas. The government announced this week that the camp is expanding from 1,200 to 3,800 beds to accomodate an increasing number of immigrants crossing the border. HHS Administration for Children and Families via AP hide caption

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U.S. Is Running Out Of Space For Separated Migrant Families

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Juan Valiente Velazquez's phone shows a picture of his son, Derickson, who remains in a youth shelter in New York. They were separated by the Border Patrol in Texas in May. Velazquez was deported to Guatemala. Derickson calls his parents three times each week. John Burnett/NPR hide caption

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Searching For Deported Parents In Guatemala, While Children Wait In The U.S.

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Guatemalan President Shuts Down Anti-Corruption Probe

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