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. Currently, he is serving as Southwest Correspondent for the National Desk.

In December 2012, he returned from a five-month posting in Nairobi as the East Africa Correspondent. 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.

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 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.

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Cities Project
3:33 am
Fri February 13, 2015

A Texas Community Takes On Racial Tensions Once Hidden Under The Surface

Kathy Van Sluyters (left), Barbara Carr and Colleen Dickinson chat on a recently finished sidewalk across from Wildflower Terrace, a mixed-income apartment building in the Mueller development for people ages 55 and over.
Julia Robinson for NPR

Originally published on Fri March 6, 2015 9:23 am

This is the second story in a two-part report on the Mueller neighborhood for the NPR Cities Project. You can find part one here.

The idea behind "new urbanism" is that a planned environment, designed with pedestrians and social interaction in mind, can create a meaningful community.

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Around the Nation
6:26 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

With Porches And Parks, A Texas Community Aims For Urban Utopia

Solar Sunflowers, an art installation, greets visitors to Mueller's commercial and retail hub off of Interstate 35. The panels power a nightly light display and return power to the grid. When the development is complete, five miles of granite trails will connect the residents to its commercial and retail hubs.
Julia Robinson for NPR

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 9:24 pm

This is the first story in a two-part report on the Mueller neighborhood for the NPR Cities Project.

In Texas, a state where cars and private property are close to a religion, there is an acclaimed master-planned community that's trying something different.

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Business
5:55 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

Planning Through Oil Booms Helps Small Producers Weather The Busts

Tracy Perryman is production manager for his family's small oil company in Luling, Texas. B.J.P. Inc. owns 116 wells that, combined, produce about 100 barrels a day.
John Burnett NPR

Originally published on Fri February 6, 2015 10:55 am

Hard times have hit the oil fields. A barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude has dropped from a high of over $100 to less than $50. But Tracy Perryman, a small oilman in Luling, Texas, has learned how to survive the lean times.

Oil companies that take on a lot of debt sometimes don't survive the downturns. But veterans of oil busts have learned how to plan for the inevitable price plunges.

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U.S.
6:20 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

Beefed-Up Border Security Proposal Unsettles Texas Business Leaders

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 1:18 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Starting Over
4:54 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

An Army Chaplain, First Tested By War, Finds His Faith Renewed

As an Army chaplain in Iraq, David Peters administered last rites and grieved with survivors. When he came home, he says, he "fell apart emotionally and spiritually."
Courtesy of Robert K. Chambers

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 8:25 am

David Peters' life was supposed to be one continuous arc of piety and service.

But for the U.S. Army chaplain, it's ended up a more circuitous route. Peters lost the very faith he was supposed to embody for his soldiers — but has also found his way back.

Peters grew up in a fundamentalist evangelical church in Pennsylvania, served as youth minister and then went to war in Baghdad as a chaplain in the U.S. Army in 2005.

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U.S.
9:21 am
Sat December 27, 2014

For Cubans In Key West, A Longing To Fill In 'Gaps Of Who We Are'

Cuba is 90 miles away from the southernmost point in the United States, in Key West, Fla. "There used to be a ferry that ran between the two islands every day," says 89-year-old Gregorio Garcia, who emigrated in 1958. "I hope they operate it again someday."
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 27, 2014 11:10 am

Like Cuban-American families throughout the diaspora, the Garcias of Key West, Fla., gather on Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve, to catch up on news and eat a traditional meal of lechón, or roast pig.

Wayne Garcia, a local building contractor and artist, prepared the pork for the family feast this year. He smokes it for seven hours in a hole dug in his backyard, in a style he says was passed down from his great-grandparents.

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Business
4:26 pm
Fri December 26, 2014

Businesses Buzz With Anticipation In Wake Of U.S.-Cuba Thaw

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Latin America
4:21 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

In Miami, Mixed Emotions Over Release Of Cuban Spies

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 6:26 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

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U.S.
5:01 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Born In The U.S. But Turned Back At The Border, Time After Time

Maria Isabel de la Paz, a U.S. citizen, was twice turned away when trying to enter the U.S. legally. When she attempted an illegal crossing, her case was decided by a Border Patrol agent, not an immigration judge.
John Burnett NPR

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 3:35 pm

Maria Isabel de la Paz is a 30-year-old Houstonian who works at a Chick-fil-A. She holds the distinction of being a U.S. citizen who was prevented for a dozen years from entering the United States.

Her case is at the heart of what immigrant advocates say is wrong with U.S. immigration enforcement — that deportations are increasingly being handled by federal agents at the border, rather than in immigration court. The practice is not necessarily illegal, but critics say it is fundamentally unfair.

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Parallels
5:29 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Legal Pot In The U.S. May Be Undercutting Mexican Marijuana

Nabor, a small-scale marijuana grower in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinoloa, checks his plants. As legal pot increasingly becomes available in the U.S., Americans appear to be buying more that is grown domestically. Prices for marijuana from Mexico have fallen sharply.
John Burnett NPR

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 5:57 am

Made-in-America marijuana is on a roll. More than half the states have now voted to permit pot for recreational or medical use, most recently Oregon and Alaska. That number also includes the District of Columbia. As a result, Americans appear to be buying more domestic marijuana, which in turn is undercutting growers and cartels in Mexico.

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