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John D. Sutter is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Washington. His work has won the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, the IRE Award, the Edward R. Murrow Award, the Peabody Award and has received two EMMY nominations -- one for new approaches to documentary and the other for environmental reporting.

Currently, he is directing an independent feature called BASELINE (working title), which follows three children growing up on the frontlines of the climate crisis between now and 2050. He also is the producer of Untitled Thwaites Project, directed by Emelie Mahdavian, which follows a group of glaciologists on their final trip to the Thwaites "doomsday glacier" in West Antarctica.

His work has been supported by MIT, Harvard, National Geographic, the Sundance Institute, Sandbox Films, the Catapult Film Fund and the National Science Foundation. Sutter is a CNN Contributor on climate issues and worked on staff at the network for a decade, most recently as a senior investigative reporter. He is the inaugural Ted Turner Visiting Professor of Environmental Media at The George Washington University. 

Current Projects

( 01 )


July 2019 to present


BASELINE tells the story of the climate crisis in an unprecedented way — revisiting three locations on the frontlines of the climate crisis between now and 2050. 

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2022 to present

Untitles Thwaites Film 

Directed by Emelie Mahdavian, this feature film follows a group of glaciologists as they take a final trip to the Thwaites glacier in western Antarctica. 

October 2019 to present

Heat of the Moment (Foreign Policy) 

Hosts this three-season podcast for Foreign Policy about solutions to the climate crisis. Guests included Nobel laureates, scientists, journalists and technologists. 

October 2019 to present

Visiting instructor at The Poynter Institute

Leads intensive reporting, writing and multimedia workshops for professional journalists.

July 2019 to present

CNN Contributor

Consults on CNN's climate coverage, shapes TV and digital stories, writes regular op-eds for CNN Digital. 

July 2019 to present

Explorer at National Geographic Society

Directing the BASELINE series as part of the National Geographic Society's Explorer program for storytellers.


( 02 )


October 2017 to January 2019

Investigating uncounted deaths in Puerto Rico

Led CNN's investigative reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, including breaking the story that contributed to the government's admission that thousands died, not 64. Also investigated the Army Corps' Blue Roof program, the "exodus" from the island and reported on the "Maria generation" of lost children.

2014 to present

Reporting on climate migration

Uncovered a number of stories in which the climate crisis intersects with migration issues. Including reports on the caravan from Honduras, a migration from the Marshall Islands to Arkansas and an "exodus" from Puerto Rico.

December 2016

Created and led this EMMY-nominated CNN series and CNN International documentary on Earth's sixth extinction, the first extinction event caused by humans. Included reporting in Madagascar, Canada and Central America. 

April 2015 to January 2016

Created and led this award-winning CNN series on the climate crisis, in the lead-up to the Paris climate talks. The goal: Engage CNN's audience in a global conversation. All story ideas came from readers and viewers. Led CNN's reporting from the UN climate negotiations in Paris.

April 2015 to January 2016

Created this CNN Digital series focused on places that statistically are on the bottom of a the list for a particular social indicator. Including: "The most unequal place in America," "The most endangered river," "The poor kids of Silicon Valley" and "Pangolin: The most trafficked mammal you've never heard of." CNN readers voted on the topics and then were engaged in a push for change. 

March 2012

Pitched and directed this CNN Digital interactive article and documentary on modern slavery in Mauritania. The project won numerous awards, including the Livingston Award for international reporting, the Foreign Press Association Media Award, the IRE Award, and others. 


( 03 )



MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellow

Researcing longitudinal journalism and climate change.


Harvard Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow

Studied how journalists can tell stories that last longer than we do. Developed idea for the BASELINE series -- a longitudinal approach to documentary film.


National Geographic Society Explorer

Directing the BASELINE series. 


UNIONDOCS summer fellow

Five-week workshop for documentary directors.


Poynter Institute summer fellow

Six-week program on journalism ethics and practice.

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