As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018 and again in 2019, he won a national Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. 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.
The privately built border wall in Texas teeters on the banks of the Rio Grande with serious erosion problems. The contractor was awarded more than $2 billion in official wall contracts.
When Hurricane Delta sloshed ashore in Louisiana a few days ago, it inundated the state and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of household. It also managed to bring out the best in people.
People in south Louisiana are cleaning up after another hurricane walloped the state. Delta hit with 100-mph winds. More than a half-million homes and businesses are without power.
Delta blasted ashore on Friday with winds of 100 mph and brought a storm surge estimated as high as 11 feet in some places.
Bringing powerful winds and storm surge, Hurricane Delta is moving toward Louisiana. The storm is forecast to affect some of the same areas Hurricane Laura devastated six weeks ago.
Hurricane Delta, a 'major' category 3 storm, is expected to make landfall Friday evening in the same area Laura hit in August. Forecasters warn of a life-threatening storm surge and powerful winds.
Though George Floyd's death renewed calls to remove Confederate monuments, some cities formally decided to protect them.
A federal appeals court dealt a setback to some immigrants living in the U.S. under protected status, ruling the administration can proceed with plans to send them back to their countries.
The Trump administration has undertaken more than 400 executive actions on immigration, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Biden has vowed to roll back many policies — but faces obstacles.
A mariachi musician, a newspaper editor, and a priest talk about how they have seen their lives upended by the coronavirus in the Rio Grande Valley.
Fifteen years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has better levees, better schools, more restaurants, more renovated houses, and yet, some storm-slammed neighborhoods are still blighted.
Hurricane Laura roared ashore Thursday along the Louisiana coast. The storm flooded homes and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands. Emergency responders are assessing the extent of the damage.