Blog : June 2011
CNN iReport roundtable: Destination Adventure edition »

Next week, we’ll be kicking off a summer travel special called Destination Adventure. The series will provide an in-depth look an interesting locations around the world, thanks to iReporters' photos, tips, videos and more.

 

Our first stop will be Pamplona, Spain, home of the famous San Fermin festival, which features the running of the bulls. (Check out yesterday's iReport blog post to read some tips for visiting Pamplona and to share your own.)

 

Today, we’ll give you a sneak peek of some of the future destinations we’ll visit and answer any questions you may have about travel reporting and photography. Comments will open at 3 p.m. ET. See you then!

 

PLEASE NOTE: Destination Adventure has been delayed until July 25. Please continue to tune in to the iReport blog for more announcements on the release of Destination Adventure.

Posted by:
 
katie
// June 30, 2011
 76 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: comments
Dance, forget sleep, and other tips for Pamplona »

Editor's note: Next week, we’ll be kicking off a summer travel special called Destination Adventure. It will be the topic of this week’s iReport roundtable on Thursday. Our first stop is Pamplona, Spain, a place where CNN.com writer Elizabeth Landau had an unforgettable time.

 

 

"Uno de enero, dos de febrero,

tres de marzo, cuatro de abril,

cinco de mayo, seis de junio,

siete de julio, ¡SAN FERMÍN!"

 

Like schoolchildren on a field trip, my friends and I excitedly sang this song on a bus from León to Pamplona in 2005. All I knew about the festival of San Fermín is that it involves people running with bulls, and that it takes place from July 7 to July 14 every year.

 

Here are some tips:

 

Dance, dance, dance. Pamplona turns into one big 24-hour-a-day party for the festival of San Fermín. Everyone’s dressed in white clothes with red bandanas, and everyone is there to have a good time. There is live music everywhere, so it’s a great opportunity to groove to the most popular Spanish hits. I remember dancing to Melendi’s “Caminando por la vida” around 3 a.m. at one of the outdoor concerts.

 

Don’t expect to sleep (much). If you’re making last-minute plans to go to Pamplona, don’t be surprised if you can’t find a bed. My friends and I didn’t even try. It seems like everyone sleeps outside in public places, or doesn’t sleep at all. In fact, Pamplona is the only place where I’ve ever slept in a public park. If you go this route, hang on tightly to your belongings. I slept on my purse, but at least one person from my group had his backpack swiped while he was asleep.

 

Running is risky. Every year there are serious injuries or even deaths among people who try to run with the bulls. In 2010 I spoke with Michael Lenahan who got gored in the leg by a bull; his brother got hurt in the left buttock. Proceed with extreme caution if you are planning on getting near the toros.

 

Check out the bullfighting ring. There are so many people stretching their necks to see over the fences that line the streets of Pamplona that it’s actually hard to see people and bulls running. My friend and I quickly realized this, and decided to go instead to the Plaza de Toros. With everyone pushing each other to get tickets to this event, it was almost as risky as chasing bulls in the streets. But we finally got our passes and made our way inside the enormous arena, which is the ending point of the bull run. There we watched hundreds of people run around the bulls.

 

Don’t wander off. One of the girls in my group didn’t show up at the agreed-upon time that morning. A half an hour went by, and she still hadn’t shown up. We all started worrying, and had no idea how we would ever find her in a sea of thousands of people, since she didn’t have a cell phone. Finally, she appeared – she apparently made some new friends the night before and lost track of time. Don’t do this to your traveling companions!

 

Check out San Sebastián afterwards. If you’re looking for a place to chill out after a crazy night in Pamplona, head about 51 miles northwest to San Sebastián, a beautiful small city on the Bay of Biscay where you can lie on the beach, admire medieval architecture and actually sit down for a yummy Basque meal.

 

Those are my top tips for visiting Pamplona. How about you? Share your tips for San Fermín with us below, and if you have photos and videos, upload them here.

 

-- CNN.com writer Elizabeth Landau

Posted by:
 
katie
// June 29, 2011
 2 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
iReport is coming to San Antonio »

 

iReport is traveling to Texas as part of CNN's Defining America special coverage and we thought it would be a great idea to meet up with iReporters while we're in the Lone Star State. Sadly we can only do one meetup this time around, but if you're in or around San Antonio on Wednesday, June 29, we'd love to see you.

 

CNN iReport associate producer Germain Perez will be at La Gloria Ice House (in the Pearl Brewery complex, north of downtown) to meet with you and have some fun. Don't miss out.

 

Here are the details:

 

CNN iReport meetup
Wednesday, June 29
7 p.m. To 9 p.m.
La Gloria Ice House

 

100 East Grayson Street
San Antonio, TX 78215

 

If you plan to attend or have questions, email Germain at Germain.Perez@turner.com or share them in the comments below.

Posted by:
 
elchueco
// June 27, 2011
 3 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community
Cultural census: Portrait week! »

Remember that iReport cultural census we told you about a few months ago? Your response has been amazing, and we're now digging through all those really cool submissions to produce some fun and insightful stories for CNN.

 

Our first series of articles comes out this week, starting with today's piece by yours truly: In Facebook age, is camera-shyness a thing of the past? It was inspired by the fact that 500 or so of you submitted images to our self-portraits assignment, making it by far the most popular of the five cultural census assignments.

 

Later this week, check back for more portrait-related content, including a story on the importance of profile pictures and a quiz on first impressions. Next week, we'll dive into your yummy food submissions. And be sure to keep coming back as the summer progresses, because we'll have stories devoted to your handwriting, accent, and transportation iReports as well.

 

In the meantime, check out today's story and tell your friends to participate in the cultural census! The more responses we get, the cooler it will be.

Posted by:
 
rachel8
// June 27, 2011
 2 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
A flood-chaser's trek along the Missouri River »

 

Stephanie Salvatore is taking a different kind of vacation.

 

Salvatore, a photojournalist from Santa Monica, California, had been hearing from her Midwestern family and friends for weeks about worsening flood conditions along the Missouri River. And so, rather than opting for a sandals-and-shorts summer destination, she packed a suitcase, shouldered her Canon and road-tripped out to the stretch of the Missouri River that threads through the verdant farmland of the Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska tri-state area.

 

 

She arrived in Sioux City, Iowa, on June 20 to find the town busy at work preparing for the predicted deluge. "The community came together to make sandbags and distribute to residents and businesses at risk," she said of the above photo. The residents of Sioux City were leaving nothing to chance, despite assurances that the area's levees are expected to stanch any further flooding.

 

 

Salvatore soon realized that their concern was completely warranted. The next day, she hiked to the top of the city's historic Prospect Hill, and saw nearby Chris Larsen Park completely submerged. It was one of several low-lying areas in Sioux City to already be swallowed up by relentless floodwaters. Thankfully, Sioux City residents are safe from the waterborne illnesses that sometimes follow: "I spoke with the Iowa Director of the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey] and he mentioned this is a 'clean water flood,'" she explained.

 

 

She then set out for the Gavins Point Dam in Yankton, South Dakota, where the Army Corps of Engineers has been steadily opening the structure's floodgates for several days. The engineers hope to prevent further flooding in upriver areas like Kansas City, Missouri. "They are out on the river 12 to 14 times weekly between Gavins Point and Sioux City, taking samples/measurements," Salvatore said.

 

And Salvatore is going with them: "I plan to acquire additional details on the levels, water quality, and will be capturing images as well," she said. How's that for a summer break?

 

If you've been chronicling the flooding along the Missouri River like Salvatore, we want to hear about it: Share your story with iReport.

Posted by: jmsaba // June 24, 2011
 10 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
Photographer haunted by sight, smell of burning homes »

Andrew Pielage was nauseous.

 

The street was quieter than he expected, but he could see a family’s trailer parked inside a ring of burnt soil. Two children knelt behind it in the grass, their hands plunging through piles of rubble. For a moment, he put down his camera and considered turning back.

 

“The thing that really struck me was the smell,” Pielage, 33, said. “It was overwhelming. When I got there I remember thinking that the fires were still burning. Then I realized that what I smelled were actually fumes coming from the homes.”

 

In May, wildfires began to rage throughout forests and communities in the U.S. Southwest, destroying homes and displacing residents. Pielage, an aspiring photographer and iReporter, drove from Scottsdale into Greer, Arizona after watching video footage of the devastated community on his local news.

 

“As a photographer, my job is to document what’s happening,” Pielage explained. “It was hard work and bravery on the part of the firefighters that saved Greer. In some photos, I put a home that was not destroyed in the background so the viewer could get an idea of how close this fire was to destroying the entire town.”

 

But as he began to walk around the community, Pielage struggled to process the level of destruction.

 

“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “I felt so helpless. There were a few times when I would just put my camera down and shake my head. I saw a garage that was totally burnt out and had nothing but a toolbox in it. It is really hard to comprehend that kind of loss.”

 

After taking more than three dozen photos, Pielage uploaded his story to CNN iReport. The goal was not only to raise awareness about the loss in Arizona, Pielage explained, but also to show the world Greer's resilience.

 

“The spirit of the people there is really inspiring,” he said. “I would walk by and people would still smile or give me a little wave. The fact that they could still smile after everything is absolutely amazing.”

 

Pielage’s moving story and photos have added new dimension to our ongoing coverage of the wildfires in Arizona. Are you there? Upload your videos and photos to iReport and share your story.

Posted by: CortneeH // June 23, 2011
 9 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
Save the date: London meetup »

If you're going to be in London on Tuesday, June 28, we'd love for you to join us at the Coach and Horses pub for our first-ever international CNN iReport meetup. It will be a great chance to get to know other iReporters in real life and have some fun.

 

CNN iReport community manager David Williams will be there to lead the festivities and looks forward to meeting iReporters from across the pond. Be sure to bring your camera – there’s a fun project in the works.

 

Here are the details:

 

CNN iReport meetup
Tuesday, June 28
6 p.m. To 8 p.m.
Coach & Horses

 

1 Great Marborough Street
Soho
London
W1F 7HG
02074373282

 

We hope you can join us! If plan to attend or have questions, you email David at David.Williams@turner.com or share them in the comments below.

Posted by:
 
zdan
// June 23, 2011
 8 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community
Piecing life back together in Joplin »

Editor's note: It's been one month since an EF5 tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri, killing 154 people and destroying most of the city. iReporter Cory Lebow shares his view of life in Joplin since that day.

 

 

There comes a time in everyone's life when they wonder, "Is this it? Is this my last day on Earth?" For some, it comes quietly in the night - peacefully, serenely, and expected.

 

For others, that moment seems to come way too soon - with the fury of 200 mile-per-hour winds hurling cars like pop cans, and shooting two-by-fours with terrifying speed and strength.

 

That was the reality for me and almost a quarter of our "Big Little City" as a tornado slammed into our southwest Missouri town. Huddled tight in a small walk-in freezer with co-workers, we seemed to be awaiting an inevitable fate as the lights went out, leaving the eight of us in eerie darkness. The cold air filling our lungs would usually leave us shivering and hurried to leave the small space, but as the twister bore down, it was the only possible shelter we had. The walls began to tear from the building, the ground shook, and all we could do was listen and wait.

 

The storm passed quickly, but there was no mistake what had just happened. Some say a tornado sounds like a handful of locomotives headed directly for you, but I heard something completely different - something primal and full of rage.

 

The roar that tore through Joplin, carving a 14 mile-long path, is now behind us, but our journey through the aftermath still feels like it's just begun. It's been a month since that fateful Sunday, but still we sleep on borrowed beds, and we continue to pick up the pieces of our ravaged lives.

 

But despite it all, we are taking our first steps forward towards a state of normalcy. Aid money, unemployment assistance, transportation and housing arrangements are all slowly falling into place. Job searches are underway, radio stations are back on the air, and curfews have been lifted. We are finally taking deep breaths, after what felt like years of wandering lost and destroyed.

 

As a night owl, I've found myself driving through Joplin in the earliest hours of morning when a serene calm falls over the path of destruction. Every few nights I go back into the streets and neighborhoods still disconnected from the rest of the city. The routine is slightly comforting as darkness covers the chaos that still litters the yards, parking lots, and houses. For just a few minutes, I'm able to pretend that nothing ever happened - I'm just headed home after a long day at work. It doesn't last, though, and the realization that things aren't even close to normal slams right back into me yet again.

 

Seeing just how close I came to death shakes me slightly, but I know that the difference of a few yards, or maybe a city block, was all it took to keep going. Some people may have felt a much more pronounced change in their lives, but for me this experience has only served to solidify my enjoyment in life. Far too often we forget that just a few feet can mean the difference between stopping to smell the roses, or always smelling daisies.

 

Today, life in Joplin is a matter of cleaning up, piecing our lives together, and looking ahead. The last month has been one giant rollercoaster. Some days are easier, but then others the stress weighs a bit too heavy. Slowly, though, the days are growing ever brighter. As I've heard from many others, "We will rebuild bigger and stronger than ever." Sooner or later, Joplin will be back - together.

 

-- CNN iReporter Cory Lebow

Posted by:
 
katie
// June 22, 2011
 13 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
Caution: Cute critter crossing »

Over the past week, CNN iReport has received some especially cute animal iReports. These little critters really put a smile on our faces, so we of course wanted to share the cuteness with our community.

 

Last Thursday, Roger Stavitz was driving near his hometown of Danforth, Maine, when he and his German Shepherd mix, Snoopy, saw a snapping turtle getting ready to cross the road. Stavitz, a self-described animal lover who has helped other turtles cross the road in the past, immediately pulled over to help the little guy crawl his way to safety.

 

 

Stavitz uploaded his video to iReport thinking only a couple people would be interested in it, but those who saw the video fell in love with it and started leaving comments showing their love for turtles and thanking Stavitz for his gracious act.

 

“We have a turtle in our neighborhood that crosses the road every year about this time,” Cindy Schultz commented. “We've seen the same turtle for years, and he is now over 14 inches across. Every one in the neighborhood looks out for the guy and helps the turtle across the road.”

 

“Great video Roger!” iReporter Tiffany77 said. “Thanks for helping the turtle and sharing.”

 

The same day, Mark Stephen Basile captured this adorable video of a friendly baby armadillo drinking water on his mother’s back porch in Conroe, Texas.

 

“We haven't had rain here in Conroe, Texas, in months,” Basile wrote in his iReport. “It is so hot and so dry down here that this baby armadillo bravely came straight over to us for a drink of water out of the hose!”

 

 

Yesterday, Larry Langner captured a photo of his 15-year-old lapdog, YoYo, crossing Avenue de la Republique in Paris. Langner said that YoYo "never really needed any schooling but the crossing monitor treats him as if he's number one in his class." YoYo, crosses the Avenue de Republique near a local school "every morning with his favorite and beloved traffic monitor," according to Lagner.

 

 

These loveable animal iReports made for a nice break from the hard-hitting news, so the next time you see an animal doing something cute, capture a video and upload it to CNN iReport!

Posted by: ccostello3 // June 21, 2011
 3 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
Paper airplanes for freedom »

 

Thanks to the iReport community, we've proven that paper airplanes aren't just for bored kids in school -- they can help make a difference in our world, too. iReporters across the world have created paper planes – the symbol of CNN’s Freedom Project – to help us spread the word about the problem of human slavery.

 

So far, iReporters in more than 25 different countries, from Nigeria to Sweden to Indonesia, have created airplanes and passed them along.

 

Although the planes may seem like a lighthearted symbol for such a serious subject, they offer the important opportunity to educate the world about slavery. Each plane includes a hard-hitting statistic about the prevalence of slavery in today’s world and a personalized message of hope. After making – and flying – their planes, iReporters then passed them along to friends and family in hopes of spreading the word.

 

And while the response is impressive, we don’t want to stop there! CNN is taking an in-depth look at the Freedom Project all week and we want to continue spreading the word about slavery with the iReport community. We hope you’ll join the effort and create a paper airplane of your own. And, in the meantime, you can learn more and check out a video of some of the best submissions we’ve received on the Freedom Project blog.

Posted by:
 
katie
// June 20, 2011
 6 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community
A reporting trip to the end of the world »

Johnny Colt participates in a handstand contest with several children in Nauru.

 

One of the lead stories on CNN.com today is a travel narrative from iReporter Johnny Colt, who visited the remote island nation of Nauru late last year.

 

Colt went on the journey in response to the iReport Global Challenge, a race to collect an iReport from every nation on the planet. Nauru was the last place to chime in. It was also a place most of us on the iReport desk had never heard of before, so we started digging in.

 

Before Colt started his journey to the tiny country, the only iReport we had seen from Nauru was actually several photographs from a trip Lee Miller had taken in 2008. Miller's photos sparked CNN's interest in this remote island nation. We wanted to know more about it today: what it looks like, who lives there, what’s going on. It turns out that Nauru is a pretty fascinating place, so we decided to send someone. Preferably an iReporter.

 

Johnny Colt had been posting extraordinary first-person reporting on iReport for months. He’s a former rock star – he was a founding member of the Black Crowes – whose stories show off this huge explorer spirit. His curiosity for a place and its people just jumps through the screen. It’s the kind of approach you want for someone who needs to drop into a place, make a lot of friends, and figure it out quickly.

 

In just three days on Nauru, Johnny explored the phosphate mines and the busy dialysis clinic, e-mailed with the president, found himself interviewed on the local radio station, bet on a losing horse, and lost a handstand contest with a bunch of gap-toothed smiling kids. You can see and read it all today on CNN.com.

 

Johnny’s trip and his story are in a lot of ways a big leap forward for iReport. It’s the first time we’ve sent an individual iReporter out on an assignment as a CNN contributor. Here’s to more where that came from.

Posted by: ccostello3 // June 17, 2011
 1 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
Current iReport site issues »

Many of you might have noticed some issues with uploading to the iReport website lately. The iReport team wants to let our community know that we are aware of these issues and that our tech team is working hard to tackle these problems. For the time being, if you are having issues uploading, please keep trying.

 

If you have had any other issues with the site, please leave a comment below or contact us at contact@iReport.com, and we will try to resolve any problems as quickly as we can. We appreciate everyone’s patience with this.

Posted by: ccostello3 // June 17, 2011
 10 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community
CNN iReport roundtable update »

Hey iReport community,

 

The iReport team has been staying pretty busy this summer with all the projects we have going. There’s the cultural census, Freedom project, Home and Away and the shuttle launches, not to mention iReport’s fifth birthday coming up on August 2 (so make sure to mark your calendars)! With that said, we have decided to hold our roundtable on the last Thursday of June and July instead of every Thursday.  Please continue to check the iReport blog for any updates concerning iReport and roundtable. Until then, please leave any questions or concerns in the comment area of this post or contact us at contact@iReport.com.

 

See everyone on June 30!

Posted by: ccostello3 // June 16, 2011
 32 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: comments
Boston and Vancouver: A tale of two cities »

It was the best of times in Boston, it was the worst of times in Vancouver. Last night, the Boston Bruins shut out the Vancouver Canucks in game seven of the Stanley Cup, giving Beantown their first Cup in 39 years.

 

 

Agitated Vancouverites immediately took to the streets after the game, and it wasn't long before rioting and looting erupted. In the video above, iReporter Percy von Lipinski grabbed his camera and ventured out to chronicle the mayhem. "The city of Vancouver sounds like a war zone with explosions, people screaming, sirens blaring and helicopters patrolling the sky," he said.

 

The mayhem recalls another ugly chapter in Canuck history, when Vancouver rioted in 1994 after losing the Cup to New York in a high-profile game at Madison Square Garden. Unlike 1994, the Vancouver Police Department took a very restrained approach towards crowd-control with this riot. Lipinski says this "was a wise move, because despite the large number of police they were still massively outnumbered."

 

 

On the other side of the North American continent, Bostonians gathered for a celebration four decades in the making. Chris Dukich and his friends were watching the game in a downtown bar near the Boston waterfront, and immediately rushed out into the street to celebrate after the Bruins' victory.

 

As Dukich stepped outside, he found an army of revelers waiting for him. "We were screaming, it was great," he said. "Literally all of the streets were filled with people and everyone was going crazy."

 

Or, as Charles Dickens put it: "What a night it has been! Almost a night, Jerry, to bring the dead out of their graves!"

 

If you're in Boston or Vancouver and are celebrating (or mourning) your team, share your story with iReport.

Posted by: jmsaba // June 16, 2011
 48 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
iReport Mad Libs challenge delivers LOLs »

Last Friday, we asked the iReport community to take part in our first-ever Mad Libs challenge in honor of its creator, Leonard B. Stern, who died on June 7.

 

The game, for the uninitiated, is simple: Players give nouns, verbs, adjectives and other words to the writer when prompted, and those words are used to fill in the blanks in a passage. The end result is often unexpected and hilarious.

 

We received nearly 80 creative and unique responses to our Mad Libs challenge. Fittingly, we used a passage straight from our About iReport page:

 

iReport invites you to (verb) the news with CNN. Your (noun) together with other iReporters, can help shape what CNN covers and how.

 

At CNN we believe that looking at the news from different angles gives us a/an (adjective) understanding of what's going on. We also know that the world is a/an (adjective) place filled with interesting (plural noun) doing fascinating things that don't always make the news.

 

That's why iReport is full of (plural noun) built to share stories that are happening where you are and (verb) the issues that are important to you. Everything you see on iReport starts with a/an (noun) in the CNN audience. The (plural noun) here are not edited, fact-checked or (verb ending in -ed) before they post. A CNN (occupation) will check out some of the most compelling, important and (adjective) iReports and, once they're cleared for CNN, make them a part of CNN's (noun) coverage.

 

Together, CNN and iReport can paint a more (adjective) picture of the news. We'd love for you to join us. Jump on in, tell your (noun) and see how it connects with someone on the other side of the world.

 

Not surprisingly, reading through the responses was a giggle-a-thon! Without further ado, here's what we considered one of the more amusing entries, written by kerrylee679:

 

iReport invites you to bedazzle the news with CNN. Your convicted felon, together with other iReporters, can help shape what CNN covers and how.

 

At CNN we believe that looking at the news from different angles gives us a really shiny understanding of what's going on. We also know that the world is an omnipotent place filled with interesting coup d'etats doing fascinating things that don't always make the news.

 

That's why iReport is full of boats built to share stories that are happening where you are and rescue the issues that are important to you. Everything you see on iReport starts with a masterpiece in the CNN audience. The piranhas here are not edited, fact-checked or cuddled before they post. A CNN psychic will check out some of the most compelling, important and veggie burger iReports and, once they're cleared for CNN, make them a part of CNN's boy band coverage.

 

Together, CNN and iReport can paint a more orphaned picture of the news. We'd love for you to join us. Jump on in, tell your cellist and see how it connects with someone on the other side of the world.

 

Another entry that struck LOL gold did so by focusing on the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal. Kudos to you, Brandon12345:

 

iReport invites you to read the news with CNN. Your Anthony Weiner, together with other iReporters, can help shape what CNN covers and how.

 

At CNN we believe that looking at the news from different angles gives us a funny understanding of what's going on. We also know that the world is a embarrassing place filled with interesting scandals doing fascinating things that don't always make the news.

 

That's why iReport is full of politicians built to share stories that are happening where you are and tweet the issues that are important to you. Everything you see on iReport starts with a picture in the CNN audience. The congressmen here are not edited, fact-checked or Googled before they post. A CNN reporter will check out some of the most compelling, important and guilty iReports and, once they're cleared for CNN, make them a part of CNN's nudity coverage.

 

Together, CNN and iReport can paint a more inappropriate picture of the news. We'd love for you to join us. Jump on in, tell your ethics violation and see how it connects with someone on the other side of the world.

 

Lastly, timmyb84's list of words was somewhat bland out of context but once inserted into the passage, its genius was obvious:

 

iReport invites you to run the news with CNN. Your dog, together with other iReporters, can help shape what CNN covers and how.

 

At CNN we believe that looking at the news from different angles gives us a boring understanding of what's going on. We also know that the world is a boring place filled with interesting dogs doing fascinating things that don't always make the news.

 

That's why iReport is full of dogs built to share stories that are happening where you are and run the issues that are important to you. Everything you see on iReport starts with a dog in the CNN audience. The dogs here are not edited, fact-checked or barked before they post. A CNN dog catcher will check out some of the most compelling, important and boring iReports and, once they're cleared for CNN, make them a part of CNN's dog coverage.

 

Together, CNN and iReport can paint a more boring picture of the news. We'd love for you to join us. Jump on in, tell your dog and see how it connects with someone on the other side of the world.

 

Thanks to all of you who participated in our Mad Libs challenge! We're already looking forward to the next funny collaboration we can take part in. In the meantime, we hope this "boring" iReport from Wendy Card of Newbern, NC, will tie you over.

 

Posted by:
 
elchueco
// June 14, 2011
 3 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
iReporters see crowded field, no clear winner in GOP debate »

Last night, CNN hosted the first official GOP primary debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Hosted by CNN's own John King, the seven contenders for the Republican mantle squared off on the economy, social issues, foreign policy and whether they prefer the Blackberry or iPhone.

 

CNN analysts said that Michelle Bachmann and Mitt Romney were the best contenders in last night's debate. Romney had a polished and confident presentation, while Bachmann wowed the crowd with plenty of red meat soundbites for the Tea Party. We knew that members of the iReport community would have their own responses to the debate, so we asked them to share their take on who showed the strongest performance -- here are three of the best responses:

 

 

Chelse Hensley is a left-leaning independent from West Virginia. She thought that a few of the GOP contenders offered good responses last night. Hensley offered her opinion in the video above: She believes that the Republicans need to forgo social issues and focus on the economy if they're going to attract moderate, middle-of-the-road voters.

 

Frequent iReporter Arturo Navarro is from southern California, and he also thought that the candidates mostly performed well. It was Mitt Romney who impressed him the most: "I haven’t jumped on the Romney bandwagon just yet but I will keep a close eye on him during the next year or so until the 2012 elections," he said. "President Obama still has a little over a year left as President so he still has a little time to make wise decisions, smarter decisions, and decisions that people want to see."

 

 

Egberto Willies of Texas, on the other hand, was very disappointed with the current roster of GOP primary contenders. "The debate was completely and entirely without substance," he said in the video above. Willies believes that all of the candidates last night gave surface-level responses to their questions, and were more interested in providing talking points that genuine answers.

 

What's your take on last night's GOP debate? Share your opinion with iReport.

Posted by: jmsaba // June 14, 2011
 34 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
The inaugural iReport Mad Libs challenge! »

 

Leonard B. Stern, creator of the much-loved "Mad Libs" word game, died Tuesday at the age of 88. His greatest legacy may be creating the quintessential party game: Players give nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs to the writer when prompted, and then the writer inserts those words into pre-arranged blank spaces in sentences for an often-hilarious and always-unexpected piece of original prose.

 

In Stern’s honor, we've decided to try something a little new: Our first-ever iReport Mad Libs challenge. Below are the 15 words we need from you to complete the game.

 

1. Verb
2. Noun
3. Adjective
4. Adjective
5. Plural noun
6. Plural noun
7. Verb
8. Noun
9. Plural noun
10. Verb ending in –ed
11. Occupation
12. Adjective
13. Noun
14. Adjective
15. Noun

 

Post your responses in the comments section by 6 a.m. Monday, June 13, and we’ll reveal the text and share some of the best responses early next week.

 

UPDATE: Comments are now closed for this post. Thank you for such fantastic responses! Check back tomorrow to read some of the best.

Posted by: jmsaba // June 10, 2011
 111 comments
Posted in: stories
Before and after: From mountain view to gray skies »

As the Wallow Fire continues to rage in Arizona, we're hearing from lots of residents in Albuquerque, New Mexico, affected by the smoke that's blown over into their city.

 

Billie Jean Little of nearby Rio Rancho says she's noticed the smoke and her family is getting headaches from smell.

 

"We can see the particulates on kitchen counters, and the house, even with central AC, strongly smells of smoke."

 

To demonstrate how much smoke is filling the area, Little shared two pictures of her backyard view: one taken in August 2010 and one taken on June 8. The difference is striking; her once beautiful view of the mountains is now completely obscured by a gray sheath.

 

Little said she's considering whether to evacuate and has been looking at cabin rentals in Utah and Colorado. Meanwhile, she wonders if the air is safe to breathe.

 

"I still see kids outside playing, people riding bicycles and I haven't seen anyone wearing a mask."

 

If the Wallow Fire is affecting you, too, we'd like to hear your story. Make a before-and-after of the sky around you, or just take snapshots of what you're seeing. Share your photos and videos with iReport, but please stay safe out there.

Posted by:
 
nsaidi
// June 9, 2011
 4 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
'Sissy Boy Experiment' triggers 'disturbing' memory for iReporter  »

Kirk Murphy, left, was five when his mom enrolled him in experimental therapy at UCLA to stem his feminine behavior.

 

Editor's note: We invited iReporters to share their stories in response to a special Anderson Cooper 360º series that examines a shocking "experimental therapy" designed to make feminine boys more masculine. CNN's Thom Patterson spoke to iReporter Roberto Addoms about his story. Part three of "The Sissy Boy Experiment" airs tonight at 10 p.m. ET on CNN.

 

Roberto Addoms isn't sure how to define the scraps of memories from his troubled boyhood growing up in Southern California.

 

The year is 1971. He's maybe four or five years old -- sitting in an unfamiliar room. There's someone talking to him, someone who may have been a doctor, asking him questions.  Was this a memory of an interview for some kind of experimental therapy?

 

Now a 44-year-old corporate trainer, it's been years since Addoms thought about this strange memory. Just like it's been a long time since he came out as gay -- and even longer since he was bullied every day at school. And then -- the darkest memory of all -- Roberto's suicide attempt at age 12.

 

But "The Sissy Boy Experiment," a CNN story Addoms heard this week about a boy named Kirk Murphy may have given this memory some context.

 

"It just kind of clicked in a way that frankly was pretty disturbing."

 

Murphy's mother told CNN's Anderson Cooper that in the early 70s she enrolled her five-year-old boy in an experimental therapy program at UCLA to stem his feminine behavior.

 

"The parallels with Kirk are just amazing," said Addoms. "We lived near UCLA and my dad was a student there. It makes sense that he might have had me interviewed for therapy like that."

 

Murphy, who also was gay, committed suicide in 2003 at age 38. His family believes Murphy's therapy led to an unhappy life and an untimely death.

 

"The only thing that may have saved me from my parents not following through with the therapy was my dad graduated and we moved away," said Addoms. "There's no way for me to know for sure."

 

His father has passed away and his mother says she has no memory of any such interview.

 

When he was just 12 -- as his parents were divorcing and classmates teased him mercilessly every single day -- Addoms felt his life wasn't worth living.

 

"It was very tough. Very tough. I made an easy target."

 

He couldn't take it anymore. "I swallowed a bunch of aspirin and I got sick. I told my parents what I did, and they took me to the hospital to have my stomach pumped."

 

The years of professional child psychology that followed were useless, he said. "They were trying to change me -- not help me."

 

Finally, in his mid-20s, Addoms told his father he was gay. "He said, 'I love you and don't do anything stupid.'"

 

It wasn't the complete acceptance from his dad that Addoms longed for, but, "sometimes you have to take what you're offered. I realize right now that this is enough."

 

If only Addoms could somehow go back in time and offer a message to himself as a boy, he imagined. "'It'll be OK', I'd say, and 'be true to yourself.'"

 

What would he tell kids today who also find themselves struggling with their sexual orientation?  "It's unfair, but sometimes you just have to rely on your inner strength. Just get through this period until you come to a place where you're allowed to be who you are."

 

"No kid," he said, "should be made to feel that they're somehow less than a person."

 

Now, after hearing Kirk Murphy's story, Addoms thinks "that could have been me."

 

 

.

Posted by:
 
katie
// June 9, 2011
 13 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
Hot, new iReport assignments  »

Hey iReport community! Just in time for the weekend, we have some really cool and fun assignments out right now. We want to see how creative you can get, so take a look and send us your stories and images.

 

Your favorite yearbook messages

 

Your best or worst summer jobs

 

Paper airplanes for freedom

 

What's your top issue as we head into the 2012 election season?

 

Your questions for the Flaming Lips

 

Shuttle launches of the past

 

Also, we will not be holding a roundtable this week, but if you have anything you would like to discuss with the iReport team, or if you have any questions about these assignments, please leave a comment below or e-mail us at contact@ireport.com. We look forward to seeing your iReports!

Posted by: ccostello3 // June 9, 2011
 3 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community
Aerial images show magnitude of massive Wallow Fire »

From up high, billowing smoke obscures patchy swaths of green and brown.

Burning nearly 400,000 acres, the Wallow Fire is now the second-largest fire in Arizona history behind the Rodeo-Chediski Fire of 2002. And, some fear the flames could spread.

iReporters flying over the blaze have been taking note of the massive smoke plume rising from the ground. From the window seat, they've been snapping photos that show just how big this fire really is.



Marie Sager of Los Angeles, California, is no stranger to brush fires and wildfires. But when she passed over the Wallow Fire during a trip from California to Rhode Island, she wasn't immediately sure what she was seeing in the distance and discussed it with the person sitting next to her. She decided to take a picture.

"I couldn't believe how much ground it was covering," she said.



Another iReporter, who wishes to be known as wireddad, was flying from California to Kansas when he noticed the smoke plume as well. It was huge, and didn't look like a fire at first glance.

"At first we thought it was a thunderstorm but it wouldn't make sense for that kind of weather to be there at that time."

He said the smoke looked like it might be reaching up to an altitude approaching that of his plane, which was around 40,000 feet up. He also snapped photos.

These images are giving us a new perspective on this raging blaze. Are you also seeing evidence of the Wallow Fire? We'd like to hear from you as well. Share your photos and video with CNN iReport, and as always, please keep safety in mind and don't cross over established boundaries.

Posted by:
 
nsaidi
// June 8, 2011
 7 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
South Korea school pledges to fight slavery »

We've been so impressed with the response to the first Freedom Project iReport assignment challenging CNN’s audience to take a stand against modern-day slavery.

 

Of the more than 200 submissions we’ve received so far, one recent video stood out: An entire girls high school in Gunsan, South Korea, standing together to end slavery.

 

CNN International sent Seoul correspondent Paula Hancocks to interview English teacher Elizabeth Pruitt and some of her students about the decision to raise their voices.

 

 

If you haven’t taken a stand to end slavery, it’s not too late! Upload your message, then be sure to check out our second Freedom Project challenge: Paper airplanes for freedom.

Posted by:
 
dsashin
// June 7, 2011
 0 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
iReporters take on 'MyPlate' »

 

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture replaced the food pyramid with a more user-friendly plate icon – nicknamed MyPlate – to help Americans make healthy food choices. Thanks to some inspiration from CNN’s Eatocracy, we invited you to design your ideal MyPlate.

 

The responses were creative, hilarious, mouth-watering and, well, not necessarily the healthiest. Peter Mazurczyk designated chocolate cake as his main dish; Mike Czarnopys offered up the “average American plate,” complete with McDonalds, soda and nachos; and Hannah Rogers ditched her plate entirely, opting for an IV bag filled with coffee instead.

 

Thankfully, iReporters also proposed some well-balanced meals, including Patrick Mahan, who suggested a vegetarian alternative to the USDA's recommendation. You can check out some of the best responses over on Eatocracy.

Posted by:
 
katie
// June 6, 2011
 1 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
CNN iReport roundtable: Thursdays at 3 p.m. ET »

Hey iReporters!

 

For those who don’t know me, my name is Carly Costello, and I will be working with CNN iReport for the next month.

 

I hope you will join me and the rest of the iReport team today at 3 p.m. ET for our weekly roundtable discussion here on the iReport blog. This week, we'll be discussing CNN’s Home and Away project, which is an interactive memorial to the thousands of coalition troops worldwide who have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

 

Team iReport is currently brainstorming ways to continue spreading the word about Home and Away and share the stories of these brave men and women with the CNN community. We would love to hear input from the iReport community.

 

Today’s roundtable will also be a good opportunity for you to meet other CNN iReporters, and for the iReport staff to answer any questions you may have about what's going on in the community.

 

We'll open comments at 3 p.m. ET and begin the conversation. In the meantime, please feel free to explore the Home and Away interactive and think of any questions you might have about the project.

Posted by: ccostello3 // June 2, 2011
 67 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community
Severe weather pummels U.S. »

In South Sioux City, Nebraska, “half the town is moving out and the other half is cleaning out their basement,” says Dakota County Star Editor Jim Headley, who shot this photo of Scenic Park on Wednesday. "We know it's coming.”

 

Deadly tornadoes, giant hail, record floods and pre-summer heat waves: Lately, the U.S. has been pummeled with intense weather. And hurricane season started Wednesday.

 

We’re doing our best to keep on top of it all, with your help.

 

At the moment, we’ve got our eye on the Missouri River basin, where the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska and other states are under water or bracing for flooding from record rains and melting snow in the northern Rocky Mountains. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has urged people living along the river to make evacuation plans.

 

Tammie Zortman-Deanda says her community of Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, is not under mandatory evacuation at this point, but the governor has strongly encouraged people pack up their belongings. The gated neighborhood sits on both the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers, and for the past few days, her neighbors have been filling trailers with furniture.

 

"People have taken up their toilets, their sinks, their carpets -- my neighbors took out her kitchen cabinets," she said. "Nobody really knows what's going to happen. Most of us don't have flood insurance because we don't live in a flood zone, but now we’re being told we could see water at 10 feet."

 

We're also following tornado recovery efforts in Joplin, Missouri, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

 

If you experience severe weather in your area, please share photos and footage with iReport. We’re collecting stories about the aftermath of the Joplin, Missouri tornado here; flooding along the Mississippi River here; other tornado footage here and wildfires here. For iReports about flooding outside the Mississippi, extreme heat and other intense weather, please upload to our severe weather assignment.

 

As always, please stay safe. The weather is often unpredictable and sometimes dangerous, so please do not expose yourself to a risky or potentially dangerous situation.

Posted by:
 
dsashin
// June 1, 2011
 10 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
About the iReport Blog

The latest and greatest on CNN iReport, brought to you by Team iReport.