John Burnett

As a roving NPR correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett's beat stretches across the U.S., and, sometimes, around the world. Normally, he focuses on the issues and people of the Southwest United States, providing investigative reports and traveling the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. 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.

Beginning with NPR in 1986, Burnett has reported from 25 different countries. 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 Sept. 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.




Mon May 9, 2011
Reporter's Notebook

A Young Hitchhiker's Guide To The Road: Smile

I'm not in the habit of picking up hitchhikers, but the one I approached on Interstate 10 in west Texas not long ago looked different. He was a friendly-faced lad with his thumb out, a cardboard sign propped against his rucksack read "West," and he was playing a fiddle.

The day was overcast and traffic light. He was standing beside the road just beyond the city limits of Junction, a ranching town surrounded by limestone hills and dull-green junipers.

I pulled over.

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Mon April 18, 2011

Tsunami Spares Japan's Pine-Covered Islands

The islands off the coast of Matsushima are one of Japan's scenic treasures. They were close to the epicenter of the devastating earthquake and tsunami. But somehow, the breathtaking pine covered islands suffered little damage in the disaster.


Tue April 12, 2011
Japan In Crisis

Japanese Youth Step Up In Earthquake Aftermath

Amid the destruction and devastation left by Japan's earthquake and tsunami, Japanese youth have stepped up in volunteering to help.

Aided by social media, young people unused to pitching in are streaming toward the devastated northeast coast, eager to deliver relief supplies and clean up.

Kenta Umeda arrived in the town of Ishinomaki last weekend from Tokyo to help haul garbage out of neighborhoods that were destroyed by the tsunami. For the trip, he loaded some new music into his iPod, hung an alarm whistle around his neck and tucked some drumsticks into his backpack.

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Sun April 10, 2011

In Japan, Many Still Living On The Edge



The government of Japan has established a 12-mile evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. Within the 12- to 20-mile zone, people can remain where they are, but they must stay indoors because the reactors are leaking radiation into the air.

Outside the danger zone, people are trying to resume normal lives, but it's not so easy, as NPR's John Burnett reports from the city of Soma.

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Wed April 6, 2011
Japan In Crisis

In Tsunami's Wake, Tough Choices For Japan's Elderly

The area of northeastern Japan hit by the tsunami is called Tohoku. It is largely rural, agrarian, traditional — and, in a country that already has the oldest population in the world, Tohoku is where you find the most seniors.

Soon, the government must decide whether to rebuild some two-dozen destroyed seaside cities and towns in the northeast, or move the residents to higher ground elsewhere. Relocation, if it happens, will be hardest on the elderly.

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