The latest and greatest on CNN iReport, brought to you by Team iReport.
The recipients of the 3rd Annual iReport Awards have been announced!
We've said it before, but one more time won’t hurt: The overall quality of photography, videography and storytelling represented in this year’s iReport Awards was outstanding. Citizen journalism has come a long way since CNN iReport’s humble beginnings in 2006, and the Award recipients are a wonderful testament to that.
Without further ado, here they are:
Breaking news: Hasan Amin, Egyptian revolution rages on
Original reporting: Nicolas Rossier, One breath: Story of a free diver
Commentary: Richard Huffman, My tribute to those lost in Newtown
Compelling Imagery: Judy Starkman, Secret lives of swimmers
Personal Story: Sam Wessels, I speak about autism because I can
In-depth Storytelling: Carlos Chiossone, Superstorm Sandy stories
Community Choice: Erik Olsen, The shoe cobbler
That’s not all!
For the first time ever, we revealed honorees in a new category called Excellence on the Web. These are six examples of the best in citizen journalism outside of iReport in 2012, and we couldn’t be prouder to honor such impressive examples of participatory journalism.
You may wonder why we’d honor stories outside of iReport: A big responsibility of the iReport team is listening to the conversations and stories that take place on and outside of CNN iReport. We’re curators at heart, and this new category allows us to share even more incredible examples of participatory storytelling with the world. Plus, no other major news outlet is recognizing excellence in citizen journalism in this way.
Here are the honorees: (Go here to read more about each entry.)
Humans of New York: Hurricane Sandy: Brandon Stanton, Tumblr
SyrianDeveloper: Mike Blackhatoviche, Instagram
Wright's Law: Zach Conkle, Vimeo
@aiww: Ai Weiwei, Twitter
San Diego fireworks, loud and up close: Dan W. Roy, YouTube
Jersey Shore Hurricane News: Justin Auciello, Facebook
Last but not least, we are thrilled to announce the 3rd Annual iReport Awards Spirit Honorees. These six honored iReporters – Jannet Walsh, Misael Rincón, Rachel Cauvin, Jim Jorstad, Lia Ocampo and Jim Brenneman – are wonderful members of our community, sharing stories that resonate with a wide audience and taking the time to make CNN iReport such a warm and special place. They’re the folks that make running this site such a fulfilling experience, and we couldn’t thank them enough!
Congratulations to all of the recipients and honorees. We are so impressed with all of you and are already eager to do it again next year. We’re nerds for citizen journalism – it’s true.
Now we're off to sneak a celebratory bottle of champagne into the newsroom. Cheers to you all!
You hear so much about kids with autism, but adults on the spectrum have their own struggles, and the workplace can be one of them. After we received two iReports on this topic, we decided to pursue it further.
So, on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET, the last day of Autism Awareness Month, we will be holding a roundtable chat on CNN’s Facebook page on autism and Asperger’s in the workplace. iReporters and experts will be taking your questions and sharing their experiences in a discussion on this subject and the challenges they’ve seen. We'd also like to hear about your views and experiences as well.
Joining us will be Dave Wellman of Myriad Genetics, who has worked with and managed employees with Asperger's syndrome; Becky Ketts of Nobis Works - which provides job training for those with disabilities and other barriers; and iReporter Sarah Still, who recently iReported on her personal challenges with Asperger's.
We hope to hear from you tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. on CNN’s Facebook and look forward to your contributions to our discussion!
There are two weeks left to vote for the 2013 CNN iReport Community Choice Award! If you haven’t had a chance to review the iReport Awards nominees, we’ve made a quick video recap of each category. Watch them below, vote here, and then let us know which iReport you choose.
Each of the iReports nominated for the iReport Awards are outstanding examples of participatory journalism and our talented panel of judges will select the recipients in each of the six categories: Breaking News, Original Reporting, Commentary, Compelling Imagery, Personal Story and In-depth Storytelling.
The Community Choice Award recognizes the story that resonates with you, the iReport community. Remember, you can vote once every 24 hours until May 6. The awards will be announced May 14 on CNN.com.
We like to give a virtual toast whenever one of our contributors hits 1 million page views. This time, we're proud to honor Omekongo Dibinga, a two-time iReport Award nominee and master pundit.
Besides being a motivational speaker and spoken-word performer, he is a social activist, married with two daughters — a recent iReport talks about how he and his wife balance their personal dreams with their daughters' needs -- a PhD student at the University of Maryland (his dissertation is "an intellectual history of Jay-Z"), as well as a faithful iReport cheerleader. He is also a teaching assistant at Georgetown University for Michael Eric Dyson's very popular sociology class devoted to Jay Z ( “Sociology of Hip-Hop — Urban Theodicy of Jay-Z").
Dibinga has taken a hard look at his own feelings toward women and shared his thoughts on President Obama's 2012 DNC speech at the convention itself, to name only a few of his most memorable moments in iReport punditry. He's even weighed in on another of his passions, comic books, from time to time.
Dibinga is currently nominated for an iReport Award in the Commentary category for his feelings about the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse case (view below).
So here's to one of our top iReport pundits, and here's to one million more to come!
The iReport Awards are back and they are better than ever!
We are bursting with pride about the quality of the 3rd Annual iReport Awards finalists. From Sam Wessels – a 10-year-old boy who opened up about what it’s like to live with autism -- to Femi Green-Adebo, a Nigerian photographer who ran to the scene of a fiery plane crash in his neighborhood -- the 36 nominees represent the best of CNN iReport: Raw, passionate and full of heart.
Many of the iReport Awards nominees had the courage to share eye-witness accounts in the aftermath of haunting experiences. Denver videographer Adam Witt was sitting in the Aurora, Colorado, theater when a gunman killed 12 people. He told us the experience left him with rippling emotional effects he hadn’t expected. Florida mother Jess Hathaway’s decisionto pull her boys from the Boy Scouts – and then tell CNN’s millions of readers about it -- was equally courageous in its own way.
The finalists include professional filmmakers and photographers who wanted to give their stories a world stage (like Navid Baraty, who shot the above photo of crowds in Times Square watching the Mars Rover landing), and first-time iReporters who had no idea what would happen after they clicked the upload button. Then there are the nominees in our new In-depth Storytelling category, who stayed with their stories for weeks and months, and in some cases, years.
We hope you’ll help us honor them by visiting the Awards site on a computer or tablet and voting for the story that moves you the most.
Our panel of judges will select a recipient for each category. But you get to decide who gets the Community Choice Award! Click on the iReport you feel most deserves it and vote once a day until May 6. You can vote for any of the 36 nominees in the six categories. Then check back May 14 to see the results.
Beyond voting, we hope you will join our community and share a story of your own. Your voice plays a crucial part in the stories CNN tells. We often use the term “citizen journalism,” but that doesn’t fully cover what CNN iReport is. At its core, it’s simply regular people sharing glimpses of their lives in their own words and pictures. Every day, we look for new ways to incorporate your voice into the stories CNN is covering.
You can start right here by visiting our assignment desk.
Who knows? Next year at this time, we might be honoring you in the 4th Annual iReport Awards.
For years we’ve talked about taking over the Assignment Desk on iReport for April Fools’ Day. This year, we finally decided to pull it off!
Our team spends a lot of time brainstorming to come up with strong assignments, so we decided to poke fun at ourselves by thinking about it the other way: How do we turn good assignments into bad ones?
While we got a chuckle out of the fake solicitations, we weren’t sure how the community would react. Funny enough, we got some real stories to our joke assignments. From the ugliest travel photos to your non-news stories, we were tickled by the anecdotes behind your stories.
iReporter Teresa Christensen sent in this photo of her then-teenaged sons on a stop in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The fact that their heads are cut off was no accident, she said. “We were in the Badlands! But they were so inconvenienced, their attitudes so impatient, and their faces had such dread and contempt that I figured the best shot would be from the shoulders down with the beautiful Badlands in the background.”
When I called iReporter Gabriel Dominise about his colorful sunrise photo on a cold day in Essex, United Kingdom, he had a lot of details about his non-story. The conversation that ensued was delightful:
“When I saw the stories about nothing to tell, I thought I have some pictures with no stories at all and I wanted to make use of those useless ones,” he said. Dominise explained he was standing on a cold platform waiting for a delayed train this winter when he captured this photo.
“It’s so gloomy and it looks like a sunset but it’s early morning. It was like a dead picture,” he said.
When asked what he thought of our no-story assignment, he said, “I was not expecting an assignment that asks if you have nothing to share. It’s unique. It’s interesting.”
It became apparent that our tomfoolery had worked, so I let Dominise in on the secret. He laughed when he realized it was a playful prank.
As for the ask a random guy at CNN a question assignment, we got quite the response when we posted it to our Facebook account. CNN's Jarrett Bellini was so bored, he actually answered some of the questions you sent!
Q: What exactly do you do? and do you enjoy being "the most unimportant person" at CNN?
A: I occupy a desk and occasionally walk around the newsroom with my coffee mug as though I'm meeting with people who matter. Being the most unimportant person at CNN is great. I can nap under my desk and literally nothing changes.
Q: Do you know why there were so many dead fish on the beach of Fort Lauderdale?
A: If you finally swam all the way to shore and suddenly found yourself in South Florida you'd probably kill yourself, too.
Q: How you doin'?
A: I have a canker sore. Otherwise, fine.
So to all of you who took part in our fun day of lighthearted humor: Thank you! iReport wouldn’t be the passionate, fun-loving community without you. Happy April Fools’ Day!
It’s the first day of spring! (In the northern hemisphere, that is.) We teamed up with the CNN Weather unit for a one-day assignment on Instagram using the hashtag #springcnn.
The weather team will be showing some of the best photos on CNN International.
Check out some of the ones that have come in so far, and if you have a smart phone, go here to view all the photos coming in.
What spring means to me: Gardening, pups, outdoors
Photo by CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Delgado (@jendelgadocnn) in Atlanta, Georgia
Thanks to everyone who joined! CNN International showcased some of the best photos on air.
[Updated at 4:10 p.m. ET] Thanks for coming to the hangout! Here's the archives of the two parts of the discussion. Thanks to all who participated, and thanks to Wes Little for joining us as well.
[Updated at 2:59 p.m.] Welcome to the hangout!
TIP FOR BEST VIEWING: Keep this window open to comment, and view the stream in a separate window so you don't lose your place if you post. You can also send your questions via Twitter using the hashtag #timelapsecnn.
You’ve seen them all over iReport, television and social media –have you ever been curious about time-lapse videos? Ever thought about doing one of your own, but not sure where to start?
If so, we’ve got the roundtable for you. Please join us Tuesday, March 19, at 3 p.m. ET as CNN Digital video team’s Edythe McNamee and iReporter/time-lapse expert John Eklund share tips and answer your questions about this fascinating cinematic technique.
For the first time, we’ll host the roundtable via Google Hangout. Here’s how you can participate:
1. Submit questions ahead of time here in the comments, or on Twitter @cnnireport using the hashtag #timelapsecnn. Feel free to ask multiple questions – we’ll select some of the best ahead of time.
3. Come back to this page on Tuesday, March 19, at 3 p.m. ET, to join in the chat!Are you planning to join our Google Hangout? Looking forward to learning more about time-lapse? We hope you’ll be able to join us right here on Tuesday!
CNN iReporters were armed with binoculars, cameras and tripods Tuesday – ready to capture even just a glimpse of Comet Pan-STARRS.
At exactly 7:46 p.m., Brian Karczewski got the shot he had been waiting for in a California church parking lot. Karczewski, 24, captured the comet alongside the crescent moon overlooking the Ortega Mountains. It was barely visible to the naked eye and appeared as "a little orange fuzzy spot," but he used binoculars and his camera to pick it out.
"I love astronomy and find astrophotography a good challenge," he said. "I was very excited to capture the comet next to the Moon. Never photographed a comet before!"
Brian McMahon also waited patiently for the comet to appear. He began snapping photos after sunset in Richmond, California, pointing his camera toward Mount Tamalpais. McMahon said the comet appeared in the photos 30 minutes after the sun had set.
And in Galveston, Texas, web designer Vadim Troshkin shot this photo for Galveston.com and said he was glad to see the comet during “such a beautiful sunset.”
Did you capture Comet Pan-STARRS too (or any other interesting celestial sights)? Share it here!
Several months ago, we partnered with Travel + Leisure to ask you for your favorite restaurants to "eat like a local." You know, the fabulous places that aren't mentioned in any guidebooks but serve a heck of a meal. You sent in hundreds of delectable submissions, and we promised that 10 of your picks would be featured in Travel + Leisure's April 2013 issue for their "100 places to eat like a local" special.
Well, the time has come! T+L chose their 10 favorite submissions and the issue will hit newstands any day now. We were lucky enough to get an early copy, and were so proud to see your iReports in print. It's the first time iReports have ever been featured in a magazine!
Want to see if your eatery was among the 10 printed? Check out the gallery here, or download a PDF of the magazine article. And be sure to check out Travel + Leisure's website for the full list of 100 places to eat like a local.
Congratulations to the 10 iReporters who were selected! And thanks to everyone who participated for making us so very, very hungry at our desks.
Each year, as International Women’s Day is honored, there are celebrations and commiserations, steps forward, and steps back, in improving the status of women worldwide.
The day, first honored in the early 1900s in Europe, has since grown to a global phenomenon, and remains the largest celebration of women across the world.
Statistically, progress for women in all walks of life remain sobering:
- At least one in three women will be abused in her lifetime, according to United Nations statistics
- Disparity in pay is problematic, with Europe alone experiencing a 16% disparity between men and women's pay.
- Women are not empowered, with only around 20% of the world's parliamentarians being women
But, all is not lost! To honor the day, iReport asked women around the world what their one wish would be for women. The results, from India to Italy, were inspiring, moving, and very forthright.
“Stand up for your dreams -- and stand up for each other.”
In India, where the horrific rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi last December sparked weeks of protests and much soul searching about the status of women in the nation, the messages were blunt -- be fearless, be audacious, and above all, be brave.
"Have the audacity. Stand up for your rights. Stand up for what you believe in,” said iReporter Meera Vijayann, a writer and NGO worker,who urged women to have the self-belief to aim high and to help others on the heady upward climb.
"Stand up for your dreams and stand up for each other. With just enough confidence, we can truly move mountains.
“Stop underestimating yourselves.”
The age-old dilemma (for women) of the work/life balance was very much her fellow Indian iReporter Sharmita Mandal’s mind. She exhorted women to aim high.
“My wish is for all the women who left a job, thinking they wouldn't be able to do justice to both work and managing family,” said the Bangalore based PR consultant.
“You will never know what you are capable of unless you reach the finish line," she said, specifically with working women in mind.
Fear and lack of confidence within women was also a big issue for Italian iReporter Martina Lunardelli.
“I wish for all the women and girls around the world to never fear,” she said, “and to continue struggling for our rights and our dreams."
"I wish you all courage and strength"
But Veronica Lon Pantaleon Mendoza, an English teacher from the Philippines, was more reflective in her wish wanting to reassure them there is support for women who have suffered, and survived, sexual or domestic violence.
“I wish you all courage and strength, and also understanding and support from the people surrounding those women with children and who are abused,” she said.
"Growing up safe"
Children were also on the mind of Patricia Mouamar from Beirut, Lebanon, who works for the charity World Vision.
“My wish for women around the globe is to know that their children will grow up in a safe and loving environment," she said.
"We are all in this together"
When Australian student Jessica Arvela spoke to her friends and family about what their wishes would be, one thing she noticed was that all their wishes were for basic human rights -- rights that they felt were not being met.
“My wish is for us to support each other every day, to realise we are all in this together, that we are all on the same team,” she said.
But Arveta ended her message on a hopeful note. “One day, these wishes will become granted!" she said.
When rumors started swirling months ago that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had died, one Venezuelan citizen penned a passionate commentary. A piece he saved for the day that Chavez died.
Juan Francisco De León, a music teacher who lives in Caracas part-time, published his thousand-word commentary in the form of a comment on CNN’s Chavez obituary on Monday. His comment caught our eye and we invited him to share his perspective on CNN iReport.
De León’s words resonated with a wide audience. In less than 24 hours, "10 reasons why I will not miss Chavez" has received almost 150,000 views and more than 26,000 Facebook recommends.
As this iReport got so much attention, we decided to take a closer look at the sources and statistics he’s citing in his argument and offer a fact check:
TRUE AND FALSE: Even from your death bed, you had a Supreme Court justice fired because she didn't agree with your politics.
De León was correct that Chavez fired a judge, but it wasn’t a Supreme Court justice. Judge María Lourdes Afiuni was arrested in December 2009, and other judges were fired, but she is not a Supreme Court justice, according to Human Rights Watch. Then-Supreme Court justice Eladio Aponte, who is male, was fired from the National Assembly for alleged links to a drug suspect in March 2012.
TRUE AND FALSE: In 14 years, our homicide rate more than tripled from 22/100K to 74/100K. While judges were busy trying to prove their political allegiance to you, only 11% of homicides led to a conviction.
De León is right – the homicide rate in Venezuela tripled – but the numbers are different. There were 67 homicide victims per 100,000 in 2012, up from 19 victims per 100,000 in 1998, when Chavez took office. That’s according to the LA Times.
FALSE: 10.7% of Venezuelans are in extreme poverty.
Depending on how you define extreme poverty, the numbers vary. As of 2011, 31.6% of Venezuelans live below the poverty line, according to the CIA World Factbook. But, according to "official government figures" in a Guardian analysis from October 2012, there were 8.5% of Venezuelans living in extreme poverty in 2011.
CNN confirmed the following claims from De León’s iReport:
TRUE: In 14 years you built less public housing than any president before you did in their 5 year periods. Hospitals today have no resources, and if you go there in an emergency you must bring with you everything from medicines to surgical gloves and masks.
TRUE: When you took office, the price of oil was $9.30, and in 2008 it reached $126.33.
TRUE: You shut down more than 30 radio and television stations for being critical of your government.
TRUE (of course, “manipulated” is an opinion): You manipulated the elections in 2010 to make sure the opposition didn't get more than a third of seats in Parliament even though they got 51% of the popular vote.
Like most iReporters, De León isn't a trained journalist. But he’s someone who has been active in online discussions about Venezuela, and we're glad he shared his personal views with CNN.
Numbers aside, De León's sentiment stands and his commentary rang true with many readers. We invite you to read his perspective and weigh in with your thoughts on Chavez.
In the past week, the Kansas City, Missouri, region has been hit with two rounds of wet, heavy snow. The blizzards have caused plenty of trouble – caved roofs, downed power lines, fallen tree limbs and treacherous roads.
But on the upside, we now have lots of giant snowmen. And snow Frankensteins. And snow super heroes. And at least one snow fortress. Here are a few of our favorites this week:
Towering Snow Bob
In Pleasant Hill, Jeremy Newman sent this shot of his kids Wyatt, 6, and Camryn, 3, with the towering 8-foot snowman they made and named last week. As you can see, Snow Bob's legs are taller than the children!
They packed the snow in a rubber trashcan (which is why Bob has legs instead of the typically round snowman body). Newman, who stands 6-foot-3, had to stand on his tip-toes to slide Bob's head on.
Sadly, Bob melted away on Sunday.
In Overland Park, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City), Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer had a challenge for his daughter, Alexandra: Build a snowman taller than a 12-foot snowman featured in The Topeka Capital-Journal Sunday.
Alexandra, along with two friends and her younger sister, spent four hours building a 13-foot "FrankenSnowman" Wednesday. Things got tricky once they reached 8 feet:
"Two of us would be filling buckets while one would be on top dumping them or catching snow chunks we tossed up to fill in the cracks. More than once you'd see a girl slide down a 10-foot mountain of snow or get a have a mini avalanche in their face."
Matt Noonan, an engineer in Kansas City, looked outside his door Wednesday to find his neighbors -- some college students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City -- constructing this elaborate fortress around their house while listening to “inspirational video game music.”
“I went outside and gave them an extra shovel because they were using their hands, sleds, and even a snow board to scoop the snow. They were very appreciative and promised they'd shovel my driveway as a thank you,” Noonan said. “They were more than welcome to all the snow on my property.”
Lastly, this one wasn't in Kansas City, but we just had to share this Super Snowman in Lansing, Michigan. Ryan Shapiro, a snowman-making novice, worked with his friend Steven Saules (slightly more experienced at this) to create the iconic character in Shapiro’s back yard Tuesday night.
The pair started out making an old-fashioned snowman. “Once we were done we realized we had no sticks or carrots but we DID have spray paint and butter knives,” Shapiro wrote in an email to CNN. They worked through the night using red wall paint, blue spray paint, gray primer and butter knives to sculpt and paint the figure.
Got a great snow creation to share? Upload it here! As always in severe weather conditions, please do not put yourself at risk.
It is considered one of the highlights of a trip to Egypt -- a flight on a hot air balloon over the temples of Luxor, seat of power for the country’s ancient pharaohs and home to some of the country's most spectacular sites.
But on Tuesday, one flight turned to horror: Nineteen tourists were killed Tuesday when their balloon in Luxor exploded and plummeted to the ground.
Here on iReport, vacationers who had taken similar rides were quick to share their images and experiences.
While the crash has led to some raising questions about the safety of such balloon flights, previous travellers were quick to praise the efficiency and professionalism of their Egyptian hosts.
"I felt very safe and in fact remember thinking that the pilot and crew for my balloon were overly cautious and constantly on the radio, monitoring the other balloons in the group to ensure we didn't collide," said Gene Roth, who took a balloon ride in Luxor in July 2010.
"There was a full safety briefing prior to the flight and reminders along the way."
Business owner Thomas Stevens from Astbury Park, New Jersey, said he found news of the crash particularly sad because of the “calm and peaceful experience” he had enjoyed, watching the lush green fields of Luxor serenely sail by in the cool Egyptian morning air.
He took the trip in November 2011. "It must have been terrifying [the crash], because the ride itself is such a calm and peaceful experience, normally," he said.
Aside from a slightly bumpy landing, Mac Hopkin and his wife, retirees from near Dallas, Texas, had no complaints about what he described as “one of the highlights” of their Egypt trip in 2008.
“We didn't feel in any way that it wasn't as safe as air travel could be," he said."The crews seemed reasonably proficient, and judging from the number of balloons, [flying] is a very frequent occurrence."
Florida resident John Baldwin and his wife, who undertook a balloon flight in 2007, admitted they were taken aback by the 26 people permitted in the balloon’s basket, but said they felt fairly safe.
"I was saddened to hear of the deaths in Luxor, but since we took our ride in 2007 there must have been tens of thousands of safe flights," he said.
"Air travel, whether in an air plane, helicopter or balloon, has certain risks."
But for at least one vacationer the experience was an unnerving one shesaid she would not repeat.“The balloon almost crashed down,” said Denise Pereira, who visited Egypt from Curitiba, Brazil, last June.
“On my video you can see the balloon suddenly coming down and hear the pilot screaming 'landing position!' while the balloon goes directly to the wires and then to the houses. While the scenery was stunning, she acknowledges she boarded knowing nothing of the equipment’s maintenance or the crew’s qualifications.
“We were lucky, there was time to get back the altitude and we had no explosion,” she wrote in her iReport. “[But it was] My first and last balloon flight... ever!”
You might have noticed something really cool happening lately: Three iReporters have had bylined opinion pieces on CNN.com!
iReport's focus has primarily been on photos and videos, but earlier this year, we started to receive some insightful, well-written essay submissions, too. First was Deborah Mitchell's compellingly titled "Why I raise my children without God," which soon became the most-viewed iReport of all-time. It was so good, in fact, that we did something we’ve never done before – we decided to run it on CNN’s Belief blog, where it received more than 1,600 comments. Last week, Richard Lucas penned a beautifully-written testimony about anxiety that ran that on CNN.com as well. And just yesterday, veteran iReporter Cynthia Falardeau published a fantastic piece on the Oscar Pistorius saga.
We’re thrilled to be able to show off iReporters' writing talents and thoughtful insights on CNN.com, and so proud of the iReporters who have earned bylines so far. We'd really like to see more of your personal essays and opinion pieces, so we've created this assignment to collect all your essay submissions, with the hope of running the best ones on CNN. Of course, writing a piece like this is often highly personal and can be difficult, so here are some tips to get you started if you'd like to give it a shot:
Pick the right topic. When you’re writing a commentary, opinion piece, or personal testimony, think about your passions. You need to feel strongly about what you’re writing and believe in your words. If you’re not engaged in the topic, pick a new one, because you don’t stand a chance of engaging your reader. If your subject is in the news at the moment, that’s great, but it doesn’t have to be if it’s compelling enough. Deborah Mitchell's piece on religion didn’t have a news peg, but it was something that she felt strongly about, and that passion came through.
Make it personal. You know the saying "write what you know?" It’s especially applicable here. When you’re thinking about essay topics, pick something that you can bring a unique perspective to, or something that you have expertise on. As someone living with panic disorder for five years, Richard Lucas could speak about it with authority. And Cynthia Falardeau brought a fresh angle to the Pistorius story by talking about her experiences with her son, who is also an amputee.
Show, don’t tell. One strong anecdote makes a point better than a paragraph full of generalizations. Be specific and try to avoid cliches. In Falardeau's article, she tells us a story about meeting a man at her gym that hammers home the thesis of her piece in an instant.
Let your voice shine. Imagine you're telling your story to a friend. Then write it using those words and that tone. Your piece should feel conversational, like you’re just chatting with the reader. Don't try to be formal or use words plucked from a thesaurus. It's your story, so tell it in your own voice. You can even try reading your piece out loud to yourself. If it doesn't sound like you, then try again.
Don’t marry your text. This one might be the most difficult of all, and as writers, we empathize completely. But you're going to have to edit your piece. You may really love that one little side note you included, or how you phrased a particular point, but if it doesn't support your thesis or move your story along, it has to go. Try to keep your piece to 1,000 words or less – you can say almost anything in that amount of space, trust us. And know that, if we decide to run your story on CNN.com, we'll make some edits ourselves. We'll work with you and make sure we keep the meaning of your piece intact, but if we brutally slash something that you loved, know that it's not a commentary on you – we just want to make your story the best it can be for when it hits the big time.
Excited? So are we. Get typing and share your pieces on our essay assignment. And leave any writing/editing questions in the comments – we'll do our best to answer them.