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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Politics
4:55 am
Fri July 24, 2015

Donald Trump Visits The Border And Calls For Tougher Enforcement

Originally published on Fri July 24, 2015 8:10 pm

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

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Now let's talk about one of the people who wants to replace President Obama in the White House - Donald Trump, who went to the border with Mexico yesterday. The Republican candidate expressed outrage over illegal immigration.

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Politics
4:43 pm
Thu July 23, 2015

Donald Trump Explores Border Reform Measures In South Texas

Originally published on Thu July 23, 2015 5:14 pm

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

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The Salt
6:44 am
Sun July 19, 2015

Hacking Iconic New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp Far From The Gulf

Co-owner and chef Mark DeFelice cooks up an order of barbecue shrimp at Pascal's Manale restaurant in New Orleans.
John Burnett NPR

Originally published on Thu July 23, 2015 3:28 pm

This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part of Weekend Edition's Do Try This At Home series, chefs are sharing their cleverest hacks and tips — taking expensive, exhausting or intimidating recipes and tweaking them to work in any home kitchen.

This week: A play on an iconic New Orleans dish to get supreme flavor from shrimp without heads.

The Chef

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Arts & Life
6:44 am
Sat July 18, 2015

Jesus In A Lowrider: El Rito's Santero Carves Saints In Modern Clothing

Nicholas Herrera sits in his studio, surrounded by his carvings. (Photos are courtesy of David Michael Kennedy, another El Rito artist, who was featured on NPR in 2011.)
Courtesy of David Michael Kennedy

Originally published on Mon July 20, 2015 11:30 am

There are two things that have put El Rito on the map. In the little village in northern New Mexico, there's a tiny cafe that serves the best red-chile Frito pie in the world. And then there's the santeroNicholas Herrera.

"This is where I live," says Herrera. "This is my studio."

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U.S.
4:02 am
Thu July 16, 2015

U.S. Immigration Agency Again Drops 'Family Friendly' Detention Centers

Originally published on Sat July 18, 2015 11:42 am

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

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U.S.
4:00 am
Tue July 7, 2015

In Rio Grande Valley, Some Campaign Workers Are Paid To Harvest Votes

Mary Helen Flores (center) is the founder of Citizens Against Voter Abuse.
John Burnett NPR

Originally published on Tue July 7, 2015 8:26 am

This week, NPR examines public corruption in South Texas. The FBI has launched a task force to clean up entrenched wrongdoing by public servants in the Rio Grande Valley. In the final part of this series, we examine vote-stealing and election fraud.

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U.S.
4:20 pm
Mon July 6, 2015

With Corruption Rampant, Good Cops Go Bad In Texas' Rio Grande Valley

Jonathan Treviño poses in front of a drug bust.
Courtesy of Jonathan Treviño

Originally published on Tue July 7, 2015 10:51 am

This week, NPR examines public corruption in South Texas. The FBI has launched a task force to clean up entrenched misconduct by public officials in the Rio Grande Valley. In this installment of the series, we hear from a police officer who became a drug dealer.

In the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where people are accustomed to seeing public officials led away in handcuffs, the case of the Panama Unit shocked everyone. The Valley's celebrated anti-narcotics squad had gone to the dark side.

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U.S.
2:43 am
Mon July 6, 2015

Corruption On The Border: Dismantling Misconduct In The Rio Grande Valley

Jonathan Treviño shows seized contraband. The former police narcotics squad leader is currently serving 17 years in prison for reselling narcotics back to drug dealers.
Courtesy of Jonathan Treviño

Originally published on Mon July 6, 2015 10:57 am

This week, NPR examines public corruption in South Texas. The FBI has launched a task force to clean up pervasive misconduct by public servants in the Rio Grande Valley. But as NPR's John Burnett and Marisa Penaloza report, the problems are entrenched.

The Rio Grande Valley of Texas is a world apart, isolated by empty ranch land to the north, the Gulf to the east, and Mexico to the south. A million-and-a-half people live there amid dazzling wealth and stark poverty.

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Religion
4:05 am
Mon June 29, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Doesn't Make It Biblically Correct, Pastor Says

Originally published on Tue June 30, 2015 2:56 pm

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

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Remembrances
5:28 am
Fri June 19, 2015

Family Knew Slain Charleston Pastor Would Lead A Consequential Life

Originally published on Fri June 19, 2015 11:47 pm

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

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Among the dead at Mother Emanuel in Charleston was the senior minister, Rev. Clementa Pinckney. He was also a state senator and leader in the local African-American community. NPR's John Burnett has this look at his life of service.

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U.S.
4:52 pm
Sat June 6, 2015

Wimberley Residents Leery Of River Weeks After Devastating Floods

Kelly O'Keefe is usually volunteering to help others. Now she's accepting help from strangers after her home was destroyed by floods. "It's really difficult to be the one with my hand out," she says.
John Burnett NPR

Originally published on Mon June 8, 2015 6:27 pm

Today, nearly two weeks after the catastrophic Memorial Day floods in Texas, search crews are still combing the banks of the Blanco River looking for three people who remain missing. They've already found eight bodies.

Meanwhile, residents of the tourist and retirement town of Wimberley, Texas, hit hardest by the flood, are cleaning up and struggling to reclaim their lives.

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Law
4:53 pm
Tue May 26, 2015

Federal Appeals Court Lets Stand Blockage Of Obama Immigration Actions

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 5:31 pm

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

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Around the Nation
7:23 am
Sat May 23, 2015

'They're Not Gang Members': Bikers Protest Mass Arrests In Waco

Authorities investigate a shooting in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant Sunday in Waco, Texas. Bikers say that most of the 170 people arrested had nothing to do with the violence.
Jerry Larson AP

Originally published on Sun May 24, 2015 10:13 pm

Authorities in Waco, Texas, continue to investigate the deaths of nine motorcycle gang members in one of the worst biker brawls in recent times. More than 170 people were arrested and charged with organized crime; each is being held under a $1 million bond.

Now there's a backlash from biker groups, who claim many of the riders were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, and had nothing to do with Sunday's bloody fight.

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The Two-Way
12:15 am
Mon May 18, 2015

9 Dead After Shootout Between Rival Biker Gangs In Central Texas

Authorities investigate a shooting in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant Sunday in Waco, Texas. Authorities say the shootout victims were members of rival biker gangs that had gathered for a meeting.
Jerry Larson AP

Originally published on Mon May 18, 2015 9:34 pm

A brawl among as many as five rival motorcycle gangs turned deadly on Sunday in Waco, Texas. Nine bikers were killed and 18 injured at a popular sports bar frequented by the gangs. No bystanders or employees were hurt.

Waco police said trouble had been brewing at the Twin Peaks bar and grill for some time. Bikers had been congregating there in ever-increasing numbers, and there had been more and more arrests for fights and weapons. Authorities had intelligence that there was a high potential for violence on Sunday. And they were right.

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The Salt
2:16 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

How Texas Ranchers Try To Clinch The Perfect Rib-Eye

Donnell Brown and another cowboy move a grouping of bulls from one pen to another on rib-eye ultrasound day in March at the R.A Brown Ranch.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 6:03 pm

We're heading into grilling season, which means breaking out the burgers and brats. But if you're a true meat lover, the slab you'll want to be searing is the rib-eye.

The rib-eye is the bestselling cut of beef in America both at the supermarket and the steakhouse, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Beef lovers go crazy for it because of its marbling — the network of fat within muscles that melts on the grill and makes the steak juicy and tender.

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