John D. Sutter is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Salt Lake City. 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. With support from the National Geographic Society, Harvard's Nieman Foundation and MIT, he is directing BASELINE: Part 1, a pioneering documentary series that aims to tell the story of the climate crisis beyond a human lifetime. At CNN, where Sutter was a senior investigative reporter, producer and columnist for a decade, he created and directed several award-winning projects, including "Two Degrees," "Vanishing" and "Change the List." Currently, he is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT, a CNN contributor and a National Geographic Explorer. He is a former Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and teaches for the Poynter Institute. 


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July 2019 to present

BASELINE: Documentary

BASELINE tells the story of the climate crisis in an unprecedented way — revisiting four locations every five years until 2050. Think of it as the environmental “Seven Up!” The series begins with the film BASELINE 2020. Its goal: combat “shifting baseline syndrome,” a term that refers to “a phenomenon of lowered expectations in which each generation regards a progressively poorer natural world as normal.” The BASELINE series aims to be an antidote, turning a consistent lens to the problem and refusing to look away. The four locations are Alaska, Utah, Puerto Rico and the Marshall Islands. 

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October 2019 to present

Heat of the Moment (Foreign Policy) 

Hosted this 12-episode 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.


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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. 


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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.


MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellow

Researcing longitudinal journalism and climate change.