As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett 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.
Hurricanes — whether big or small — manage to damage or destroy most things in their path. But palm trees tend to escape a hurricane's fury. That was definitely true after Ian.
Eight radio stations in Southern Louisiana still broadcast partially in French as they try to keep alive a dying language in the area. French has been spoken there since the mid-1700s.
When SpaceX opened its rocket factory and launch pad in South Texas, few locals thought it would morph into such a large operation. Now environmentalists are worried about the long-term effects.
The Valentine's Day winter storm created a condition that makes the turtles weak and inactive. Many of them died, but helpers are being praised for how many survived.
Hurricane Laura is pounding parts of Louisiana and Texas. It made landfall near Cameron, La., early Thursday morning. Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated the region before the storm hit.
Hurricane Laura has rapidly intensified and is approaching the Texas-Louisiana border as a major hurricane. Meteorologists are most concerned about a big storm surge with powerful winds.
The Department of Homeland Security watchdog has criticized Border Patrol for not looking for a cheaper alternative to President Trump's border wall, such as cutting-edge surveillance technology.
More than 60 monuments that celebrate the Confederacy and its military men have come down in cities all across America. But more than 1,700 remain, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A decision by the Trump administration will stop the acceptance of new applications for a program that protects immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.
Images of federal officers making arrests have alarmed critics who think President Trump is using the officers to trample civil rights and appear as a law-and-order candidate ahead of elections.
Who was Juan de Oñate? Critics object to statues of the Spanish conquistador, the first European to colonize New Mexico and a despot who inflicted misery on Native Americans.
Armed militias have become a feature at anti-quarantine protests, racial justice marches and monument removals. But after a shooting in Albuquerque, locals say militias are disturbing the peace.