Blog : August 2011
Top five: What we'll do next »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, iReport ringleader Lila King wraps it up with a look at what's coming.



It's been an incredible month here in iReportland. At the beginning of it we marked our fifth anniversary and set off on a string of daily top five lists on everything from international breaking news to squirrels to one very sweet love letter. At the same time of course, there was a revolution stirring in Libya, an earthquake near Washington D.C. and a huge hurricane that battered most of the eastern United States, three huge stories CNN told together with iReport and the people living through them.


I can't help but beam when I think about how far iReport has come in these five extraordinary years. But since we've already spent a month looking back, let's make this last list about what's coming. So, here we go. Top five things to come:


A fresh look


This fall we'll unveil a new site for iReport, including lots of new features and a much more streamlined experience. It's beautiful and I can't wait to be able to share it. (If you'd like updates, follow us on Twitter or Facebook.)


iReport everywhere


One thing you may have noticed recently is that iReport has been working with other groups and media organizations on joint projects. Like this one with our corporate cousins CNN Money, or these regular challenges with Mashable. We've even collaborated with Team Coco on hilarious videos for Andy Richter, no kidding. And, we've got several new shared projects on the way.


iReport has always operated on the principle that news is a very broad category: it's true stories that tell us something about our world. Joining forces with other groups lets us tap into stories and communities outside of traditional news, and bring the things they know and love into the iReport fold.


A bigger team


iReport itself is growing, and we're staffing up at CNN to support it. We've just posted three new jobs on Team iReport in Atlanta, and there very well may be more on the way. It's a newsy, smart, creative, thoughtful, super fun team and while I'm certainly biased, I'm also pretty sure it's one of the greatest groups working in journalism today. Join us!


True community

Ok, ok. If you'd asked me three years ago whether we had a true community on iReport, I would have said yes. And I would have been right. But what I mean here, and for the future, is that we're building a community that includes all of us who care about telling the stories that shape our world. That means iReporters and CNNers alike.


Until recently, CNN staffers not directly involved in Team iReport mostly stayed off our site. But lately that's been changing. With the Open Story, several CNNers (like Miami-based producer Kim Segal and New York-based photojournalist Thomas Jurek) have been using iReport as a way to file their reports back to the newsroom.


You should expect to see more CNNers here, contributing and interacting and being part of the club. Because we're all in this together.


Invent the future


That's what we're here for, after all. Earlier this year we launched Open Story, a template for telling a developing story in real-time together with the many people who experience it. It's a first big step toward figuring out how to collaborate on the story of an event. Why does it matter? Because one perspective is almost never enough to understand what's really going on.


Now we get to figure out the next step.


(Bonus!) A rad party


After a month of meetups all around the world, we're bringing the celebration home to Atlanta at the Whitespace gallery in Inman Park. If you're in town, I hope you'll join us on Thursday!

Posted by: katie // August 31, 2011
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Top five: Technology lessons learned »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, iReport tech guru Pete Bethany shares some major lessons he and his team have learned while working on the site.


In the five years since iReport was launched, major news events have brought with them new technology challenges. Launching a new website devoted to building a community of citizen journalists was the first major challenge we faced, but certainly not the last. Here are a few of the stories and that stand out from the perspective of the web development team responsible for creating and maintaining the site.


The start of it all: launch


The beta iReport web site, which launched on February 13, 2008, demanded a full range of features: uploading and processing every imaginable video and image format, automatic content publishing, commenting, blogs, private messages, profiles, avatars ... the list goes on and on. Among other things, we learned very quickly that we needed sophisticated tools for the editors and moderators to manage the site and to thwart the many would-be spammers of the world.


Worldwide celebrations: New Year’s Eve 2008


On December 31, 2008, we launched an assignment topic for all the New Year’s revelers of the world to send pictures of their parties. And they did, in VERY large numbers. At around 11:00 p.m. ET, with CNN anchors encouraging everyone to participate, we saw a huge influx of pictures and videos flood into the system. File systems were overwhelmed and alarms went off. Software developers were dragged from their own parties to come to the office and deal with the mass of digital media from all over the world. Fortunately, it turned out to be a perfect practice run for news events just around the corner.


The Moment: Obama's presidential inauguration


During the inauguration of President Obama in 2009, we received more than 12,000 iReports in less than 24 hours – the most to date – and the New Years event helped prepare us to handle the load. In addition to preparing for the site traffic spikes, we joined with Microsoft to pull iReporters images into a dynamic panorama capturing The Moment.


Haiti earthquake: iReport repurposed


When an earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, thousands of family members flocked to the iReport web site to report missing loved ones. As a result, we adapted the standard media upload form to capture specific information designed to help people contact their friends and family in Haiti. Data was compiled into a database with more than 4,000 submissions and status updates. We learned that the technology behind the site needs to be flexible enough to adapt at a moments notice to demands we never expected when the site was launched.


Hurricane Irene: A moving target


Most recently, Hurricane Irene was featured as an iReport Open Story and this event provided the opportunity to add new data sources to the map view on our Open Story page. Layering the NOAA forecast cone and storm track data over the locations of iReports created a unique way to see this story unfold. In the future, we will undoubtedly be looking for new data sources to combine with information from the iReport system to help visualize events of the world.

Posted by: katie // August 30, 2011
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Your favorite hometown foods »

Shrimp and grits, machaca, po-boys, barbecue and "chowda." These are just a few of the answers we've received to the question: "What food is your hometown famous for?"


Answering that question will get us closer to ranking America's Best Places to Live, CNNMoney's list of the best small towns in the nation. While we've closed the assignment, voting will continue until September 15 and on the 19th, CNNMoney will unveil your choice picks.


We received more than 70 photos and descriptions of your hometown favorites over the past two weeks from towns like Santa Cruz, California, Silver Spring, Maryland, and tiny Luling, Texas (pop. 5,411).


Tiny as it may be, Luling shares in the big Texas tradition of barbecue. iReporter Robert Gardner tells us about his hometown favorite, Luling City Market's barbecue: "Their mouthwatering brisket is seasoned and cooked for 6-8 hours over a slow oak wood fire and, for that true 'Texan' atmosphere, is served on brown butcher paper."



Less-known food favorites are also sharing the spotlight. In Jamestown, California, there's the Super Bowl Breakfast, a complete country breakfast of cheese, gravy, eggs and meats in a scooped-out sourdough boule bread roll.


But my personal favorite was the garbage plate from Rochester, New York. Matthew Nazarenko tells us that this heart-stopping delicacy can be had at a variety of establishments in Rochester, each with its own unique twist.



The most common garbage plate is "two cheeseburgers with half a plate of macaroni salad, half a plate of home fries and covered with meat sauce and onions."


"It doesn't get any better than that!" he says.


Head over to CNNMoney and take a look at these and other delicious favorites from towns across America and help us choose the best.

Posted by:
// August 30, 2011
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From fashion photographer to iReporter »


Nigel Barker, best known as a judge and photographer on America’s Next Top Model, is adding another title to his resume: iReporter.


Barker – along with countless other iReporters documenting Irene’s aftermath across the East Coast – shared excellent photos of sandbags, boarded-up windows, and flooding in the Meatpacking District of New York City, where he lives.




“I travel all around the world and see things people never see,” he said. “This time it was happening outside my apartment.” Barker added that he believes the response to Hurricane Irene was appropriate. “You never can tell with the weather and it's better to be safe than sorry.”


Expect to see more images from Barker the next time news happens in his backyard. He promises that “this is the first of many iReports.” Nice!

Posted by: katie // August 29, 2011
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iReporters were everywhere for Hurricane Irene »

Starting in the warm waters of the Caribbean and sweeping alongside the East Coast of the U.S., Hurricane Irene left behind a swath of destruction and iReporters were there in droves, telling stories that mirrored the path of the storm. Their images and videos showed up as little red i’s on the Irene Open Story alongside reports from CNN staffers out in the field.


To all those that contributed to the Irene Open Story: Thank you! Every individual iReport uploaded helped tell the larger story of the storm. You added immense value to CNN’s coverage of the hurricane and its aftermath.


iReporters, such as Staff Sgt. Brian Hissem, were also all over television this weekend and the footage we received was incredible.



Hissem, who is in the Army training at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, decided to stay and ride out the hurricane as it brushed the coast. He told CNN’s Joe Johns that he was “not afraid of Irene” during a live interview on The Situation Room.



We also heard from five-year-old Jane Haubrich, who reported from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, with storm updates every few hours. HLN’s Robin Meade applauded Haubrich for her adorable and informative videos and featured them on Morning Express.



And as the storm brought heavy rain to the northeast, iReporters in Vermont, New York and New Jersey taped jaw-dropping footage of floodwaters surging through quiet towns and normally empty gullies.


As the East Coast steps back to assess damage, we’re still receiving iReports from areas facing serious flooding and from towns without electricity. We understand that this story is far from over and we’d like to hear how you are doing in the wake of the storms. Share your updates and stories with us as this story continues.

Posted by:
// August 29, 2011
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Top five: iReports from fascinating places »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, iReport team member Daphne Sashin revisits the iReport Global Challenge.


In CNN iReport’s five-year history, our more than 900,000 contributors have brought us the world. In 2010, they helped us reach a major milestone: An iReport from every country.


The iReport Global Challenge, as we called the project to approve at least one photo or video from 194 countries, took us to places of extreme beauty, harsh poverty and corners of the planet that are rarely talked about.


Here are five of them:




The most beautiful place  on earth: that’s how many visitors describe the island of Palau, a destination for scuba divers, snorkelers and kayakers the world over. Ethan Daniels of Berkeley,  California lived there for nine years as a dive guide and biologist and  still dreams of being in the sparkling waters. The small-town feel of  the country along with its natural beauty, vibrant sea life and warm,  welcoming inhabitants keep him going back every year.




Railroad enthusiast George Hart introduced us to Eritrea’s railway (), “a technical and engineering masterpiece” built by the Italians between 1886 and 1932 through the Denkali desert, snaking along mountains and crossing 65 bridges and 36 tunnels. The railway shut down in 1975 after it was virtually destroyed during the Eritrea’s war of independence from Ethiopia. It reopened in 2003, and Hart road the train in 2009, calling it “one of the most spectacular in the world.”




Eritrea's neighbor to the south, and one of the hottest places on earth, was one stop on a long voyage in the Indian Ocean for Amalvict Oliver of Nimes, France. While in Djibouti, Oliver captured these stunning images of Lake Abhe Bad, the salt lake where the final scene of Charlton Heston's 1968 movie "Planet of the Apes" was filmed.




Andrey Shapenko of Moscow, Russia, traveled to Turkmenistan last year and came back with incredible footage of a gaping, flaming gas crater in the middle of the Karakum desert. The result of a 1971 Soviet gas exploration accident, the cavern has been burning for nearly 40 years. “You understand the power of nature and real force of Earth when you stand near it,” Shapenko said. “In simple words, it was awesome.”


Equatorial Guinea


On a trip to Equatorial Guinea in August 2010, Luisa Paquet López from Gijon, Spain, captured these haunting portraits of pain, strength and innocence. The country is one of sub-Sahara's largest oil producers. It’s also on corruption watchdog agency Transparency International’s top 12 list of the world’s most corrupt countries, and known as a destination for child trafficking. “It's hard for me to talk about a country with such a ferocious regime and dictatorship where people I love live,” López told CNN.


If you’ve been to an amazing place, share your story with CNN iReport. And, while you’re at it, check out our Destination Adventure travel special, and experience the thrill of visiting several exciting locations through iReporters’ stunning photos and travel tips.

Posted by: katie // August 29, 2011
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Top five: Cutest iReports ever (squeal!) »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, iReport team member Rachel Rodriguez tries not to die of cute overload.


Every once in awhile, you hear a squeal from the iReport desk. People start to gather around someone's computer screen. And finally, there's the collective "awwwwwww" that confirms we've received another adorable animal iReport.


We may not be I Can Has Cheezburger (yet), but we do get our fair share of "awww"-inducing videos alongside the newsy awe-inducing ones. Here are the top five iReport videos that will make your heart melt and brighten your day, no matter what:


Baby tiger plays with its keeper

For anyone who has ever wanted a pet tiger (me, me, ME), this video is about as close as you can get. Sylvester the tiger cub is about a year old in this video, shot by Mordechai Twersky at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo in spring 2009. A zoo official gets down to the cub's level and calls him over, and Sylvester proceeds to climb all over his head, shoulders and torso like a big kitten (which, of course, he is). Paired with Twersky's close-up shots of Sylvester's gorgeous face and coat, this footage is guaranteed to make you want to hug your screen.


Ducklings trapped in pool

This video from last April would be cute on its own, but Chris Lombardo's music editing turns it into a Disney-worthy vignette that I tend to watch five times in a row every time I click on it. A mommy duck and her brood take up residence in Lombardo's Newbury Park, California, pool, and this video chronicles their eventful and adorable journey to get out again.


Baby deer gets her bottle

The brilliant thing about this video is that it keeps upping the adorableness quotient as it continues through its three minutes. First, the little deer comes when she's called by Amy Carrickhoff, who raised her since her mother abandoned her as a baby in Oak Ridge, North Carolina. Then she jumps up on Carrickhoff like a dog, wanting to be petted. THEN, she follows Carrickhoff into the house. And finally, she slurps down her bottle of delectable goat's milk. In a nutshell, this iReport from November 2010 got nearly 250,000 page views for a reason.


Bear splashes in backyard fountain

This is a video from August 2008 of a 2-year-old black bear in Mammoth Lakes, California, that climbs into Harry White's backyard fountain -- he barely fits -- and has a playful, splashy bath. There's really nothing else I need to tell you. Just watch it.


Penguins chase butterfly

Drama at the Philadelphia Zoo! A butterfly is flitting about in the penguin enclosure, and no matter how hard they try to toddle after it, the penguins just can't catch it. Good thing Marty McGuire was there in August 2010 to capture all the action.


But wait! It is my pleasure to gleefully announce that we've chosen some honorable mentions as well -- because who are we to withhold adorableness from the world?


This lovely goat has been my desktop background for two years. He just looks so peaceful and happy!


And this little lion cub, pictured above, is completely irresistible. I want to adopt him. Like, seriously.


Sea turtles are delightful, and they're even more adorable when they're babies and being rescued by a caring group of kids.


This horse is keeping cool by showering off in a sprinkler. Wait until he plays with the jets of water with his hoof like a little kid -- unbearably cute.


Want to meet the world's tallest cat? Here you go. She's a sweet Savannah cat who's even more beautiful than she is tall.


All this cute is hard to top, but if you think you have a video that can do it, we'd be delighted to see it and share it with the world. Because news is served best with an occasional side of "awwwww."

Posted by:
// August 26, 2011
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Atlanta birthday meetup: Thursday, September 1 »


It's been a lot of fun seeing iReporters all over the world get to know each other in real life at the CNN iReport birthday meetups, and now it's our turn to celebrate here in Atlanta!


We'll be hosting a meetup at Whitespace gallery in Atlanta's lovely Inman Park neighborhood on Thursday, September 1, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

We're looking forward to seeing everyone and we're inviting a lot of our friends from CNN too.


If you think you can make it, please RSVP by going to our meetup page.


Hope to see you there!

Posted by:
// August 25, 2011
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CNN iReport roundtable: Boot camp week two update »

The roundtable for week two is now closed. Thank you to everyone who joined us. We hope we were able to answer most of your questions.


If you have any questions about your story or about boot camp, please post them in the comment section below. To see what was said during the roundtable, go here and scroll down to the comments section.


If you were not able to participate in this week's boot camp assignment, it's not to late. You can start this week with the interviewing assignment and still be in the running for a byline. For more details, visit our iReport boot camp page


Note: We have now opened our next assignment, along with an interviewing tips piece by Writer Elizabeth Landau.


We can't wait to see what you have for us in week three!

Posted by: ccostello3 // August 25, 2011
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Top five: Natural disaster stories »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today we're looking at some of the most memorable natural disaster stories submitted to iReport.


Over the past five years, iReporters have stolen the spotlight here at CNN whenever a natural disaster occurs. They are the first people on the scene, so naturally they are the first people we turn to when we need information.  Throughout iReport’s history, iReporters have never hesitated to show the world their firsthand encounters with nature (as long as they can do so safely, of course!). Today we look back at five of those stories that showed devastation through the eyes of those living it.


Iowa City floods - a personal home tour



On June 12, 2008, the Iowa River overflowed its banks, forcing the surrounding communities to evacuate. Andrew Sherburne and his wife had just bought a house in the area and never imagined having to evacuate their home, because it was in an area that is considered a 500-year flood plain.


Authorities knocked on their door at 1:30 a.m. and gave the couple 30 minutes to evacuate. Trying to save their most valuable possessions, the Sherburne’s took two hours to collect what they could and almost got arrested for not evacuating in a timely manner.


The day after they were forced to leave, the couple decided to head back to their home by canoe to see what else they could save. This is the video they filmed as they went to save what was left of their home.


Last house standing after Hurricane Ike



Warren and Pam Adams from Gilchrist, Texas, lost their home in 2005 to Hurricane Rita. Wanting to stay in Gilchrist, the couple decided to rebuild, but this time they put their home on stilts, 14-feet above the ground. Three years later, in September 2008, Gilchrist was hit by Hurricane Ike, which flattened most of the town. But their home remained standing.


Helicopter pilot Ray Asgar captured an aerial photograph of the Adamses’ home after Hurricane Ike tore through most of the roughly 200 homes in the neighborhood.


Bushfire in Australia



Jim Baruta filmed this video of a wildfire heading toward his home in Victoria, Australia, on February 7, 2009. “It just kept coming and coming,” Baruta told CNN’s John Vause in a later interview. Baruta said there was no warning about the fire so he did not have time to evacuate. He says had he left, he would have never made it out.


Baruta stood on his porch, watching the fire come closer and closer. He took shelter in a concrete bunker he built, but eventually left the bunker to try to save his home. For hours, Baruta used a hose to fight the fire that tried to overtake his home.


After the fire was out, only Baruta and one other neighbor on his street still had houses.


Collapsed Roof Tokyo Theater



On March 11, 2011, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake shook Japan. It was the most powerful earthquake to hit the island nation in recorded history.


Almost immediately after it struck, we started to receive videos and photos showing what happened, giving the rest of the world a view of the experience and in some cases, the tragedy.


The day after the earthquake, Aaron Lace shared his experience with CNN iReport. Lace was attending a college graduation at a theater in Tokyo when the Earth started to shake violently. Lace said the emcee of the graduation told the people in the theatre to remain in their seats, but Lace decided to leave and head outside. When the quake was over, Lace headed back into the theater only to find that a part of the roof had collapsed, trapping several people and injuring many others. This video shows what Lace saw as he headed back in.


Tuscaloosa tornado aftermath



University of Alabama professor John Myrick captured this video of a devastated Tuscaloosa, Alabama, about an 1½ hours after a tornado touched down in the college town on April 27, 2011. He was on his way to his church, which was in one of the heavily damaged areas. “The entire neighborhood was destroyed,” Myrick said. “(It) was probably the most surreal thing I witnessed in my life.”


CNN’s coverage of these stories would not have been the same without these iReporters. Stories like these have put a new, much needed perspective on how we cover these disasters in the news. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: ccostello3 // August 25, 2011
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All shook up over East Coast quake »


Oh, the devastation. Yesterday's 5.8 quake shook, rattled and rolled several East Coast states for a few interesting seconds.


People who had never experienced an earthquake in their lives grabbed their cameras and took pictures of what they could. We received thousands of iReports of the aftermath of this quake.


Turns out that yes, Virginia, earthquakes do happen on your side of the country, and in your state to boot. (And no, Delaware, we are definitely not the first ones to make that joke.)


Since you can't physically see an earthquake, iReporters had to get creative to show us the impact of the shaking. Here at CNN iReport and indeed across the spectrum of social media, people posted interesting demonstrations of the quake's effects that showed how there can be a quirky side to an otherwise shaky situation.


We saw a wide variety of shaking objects around the home used as a way to indicate plate tectonics at work. Science teacher Mike Black of Belmar, New Jersey, filmed a rocking disco ball. Frank August of Vienna, Virginia, shared how sloshing chocolate milk got onto a nearby container in his refrigerator. Michael Caposole of Williamstown, New Jersey, filmed a shaking chandelier, while Mario Depeine, Sr., of Dunellen, New Jersey, showed us a swimming pool.



Many people have cameras to watch their pets at home, and we discovered that dogs were understandably frightened by the sudden shaking. Shelley Jewell of Richmond, Virginia, recorded her dogs barking at the invisible specter that was suddenly rocking their worlds. In Springfield, Virginia, Christopher Watson's cone-collared dog paced frustratedly around the room as a recliner bobbed up and down from the tremors underfoot.



There were also a few, shall we say, casualties of sorts. Omekongo Dibinga of Washington got stuck in an elevator and had all sorts of difficulties, including finding his iReport Spirit Award knocked down on the floor. Fellow capital dweller Susan Prahinski was saddened to announce that Aristotle was decapitated, while William Shakespeare was knocked off his base. David S. Aherron of Montpelier, Virginia, observed that a toothbrush and its case were displaced into the sink basin.


Finally, we heard from seasoned Californians who barely flinch an eye at a little shaking every now and then. "We have 5.8 shakers for breakfast!" noted Allen Mealey of Moreno Valley, California, who showed us "plate tectonics" (with real plates) on video.


In short, it was an atypical day for many on the East Coast. While a bit scary for some, the quake's quirkier side did get a lot of people talking. Do you have a wacky or funny story from the quake? Share it here on CNN iReport, and in the comments area below.

Posted by:
// August 24, 2011
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Top five: Original reporting »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today we're looking at some of the best original reporting to be submitted to iReport.


iReport is changing the way we do journalism.


That’s a lofty statement; not too long ago, many rolled their eyes at the concept of citizen journalism. But as countless breaking news events over the past five years have proven, iReporters are always on the front lines, helping us come up with exciting and compelling new ways to report on current events. There’s real power, and near-unlimited possibility, in how iReport allows users to leap over all of journalism’s traditional hurdles and deliver original stories directly to CNN’s audience.


With iReport, anyone can be a shoe-leather journalist who uncovers a fresh story and breaks it to an international audience. Here are five inspiring examples of iReporters doing just that:


It’s what we can’t see — The BP Gulf oil spill



The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a disaster playing out in slow-motion -- five months where some of our worst ecological nightmares were brought to life, an inky nightmare slowly spidering across those vital waters. As weeks dragged on and estimates on the extent of the spill began to worsen, we slowly began to realize just how serious of a catastrophe we were facing.


Eileen Romero visited the Gulf region in May 2010 and personally witnessed the extent of the oil spill. From its effect on the flora and fauna, to the Navy’s restoration efforts, to the corrosive chemical dispersants being deployed to clear the surface of the water, Romero used iReport to give a firsthand and as-yet-unseen glimpse of one of the biggest environmental disasters in our nation’s history.


Confederate flag controversy in Tampa, Florida



In the summer of 2008, a large Confederate flag was raised at the Sons of Confederate Veterans memorial park in Tampa, Florida, as a salute to the Civil War soldiers buried there. Many in the community, however, strongly objected to the raising of the flag for its associations with slavery and racism.


iReporter DANR went to the scene to interview the proprietor of the cemetery, and ask him why he was keeping the flag up despite heavy criticism from the community and several prominent national groups. Though the proprietor’s response is unlikely to change any minds, this iReporter reported fairly on both sides of a national controversy.


'Avatar’ creatures join West Bank protests



In a conflict marked by animosity on both sides and decades of deadlock, pro-Palestinian protesters decided to fuse their efforts with sci-fi allegory. James Cameron’s blockbuster “Avatar” had just been released, and many West Bank demonstrators saw a fitting comparison between the plight of the film’s Na’vi and the struggle for coexistence between the peoples of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.


On February 12, 2010, Ayyad Mediqa was on the scene documenting weekly protests in the area when she saw these activists painted blue, wearing the traditional Arab keffiyah in place of Na’vi tribal garb. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and iReport was there.


New York fireman reunites with woman he saved 38 years ago



iReporter Robert McKee was taking his terminally ill father, Arthur, on a trip back to his old stomping grounds in New York City, where Arthur served in the Fire Department. While there, they decided to try to hunt down another memory: In 1970, Arthur rescued a young girl from a fire at a synagogue. The girl was unconscious from the heavy smoke, but Arthur resuscitated her three times, bringing her back from almost certain death.


After much searching and coordinating, Robert was finally able to surprise his father with a reunion with the girl he saved, 38 years later. He captured the tearful, emotional reunion on camera and shared it with iReport.


Dangerous U.S. cluster bombs linger in Laos



One of the deadliest legacies of the Vietnam War are the tens of millions of unexploded cluster bombs dropped on Laos by U.S. aircraft during the conflict. Though the war is long over, these bomblets remain, and have killed an estimated 20,000 since the end of the war, and maimed many more.


Samantha Bolton is affiliated with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which succeeded in signing a cluster bomb ban into international law in April 2010. Later that year, Bolton traveled to Laos to document the ongoing bomb-removal efforts and shared this very underreported story with an international audience.


In these iReports, citizen-journalists were on the scene providing context and perspective, whether the news was of local, national or global importance. Each of these stories is, in its own way, a perfect example of the power of iReport as a vehicle for next-generation journalism.


If you’ve got some great ideas of original stories you’d like to share with the CNN audience but don’t know where to start, don’t despair! iReport Boot Camp will give you a crash course in all things citizen journalism, and you can even compete for a shot at your very own CNN byline. If you’ve already got some original reporting you’re excited to share with iReport and the world, don’t wait! You could be making headlines.

Posted by: jmsaba // August 24, 2011
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iReporter in black and white, read all over »

We were excited to see veteran iReporter Julie Ellerton’s front page photos (and stories inside the paper) for various issues of the “Malibu Times,” from stories on the memorial for Mitrice Richardson – a story which she has been following closely for well over a year – to Cher’s recent appearance at a nearby movie premiere.

It’s awesome to see an iReporter’s work featured elsewhere. Congratulations, Julie!

Is your work being featured in your local community as well? Let us know! Email

And if you’re looking to improve your journalism skills, we’ve got just the place for you. Join up with CNN iReport boot camp!

Posted by:
// August 23, 2011
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Posted in: community
Top five: Standout personal stories »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Here, CNN Marketing’s Nnedike Ugoji revisits five standout personal iReport stories. Nnedike usually works behind the scenes on iReport, as our link to CNN's marketing department. Most days you don't hear their voices on, but as we celebrate five big years, it'd be a shame not to include one from the force behind all those awesome birthday t-shirts.


Opening up and sharing one’s vulnerabilities is hard to do, but you — our iReporters — do that every day. Over the past five years, you’ve shared some of the most inspiring and most gripping stories that have affected our community and, in many cases, changed how we cover a story.


Earlier this year, we instituted the inaugural CNN iReport Awards. This was an opportunity for us to honor and showcase examples of the most compelling iReports that you filed in 2010.


Here’s a look back at five of the most striking personal stories honored in the 2010 iReport Awards.


My escape from Vietnam - Faithe Chu


iReporter Faithe Chu, the winner of the personal story category, shared an iReport that was as inspiring as it was thought-provoking. Chu’s story brought to light a topic that had been unknown to many people.


Growing up in post-war Vietnam, Chu lived in constant fear, for she was an Amerasian (half Asian, half American), a group that was often discriminated against by the Vietnamese government. Chu says her mother dyed her hair and burned her birth certificate in order to keep her under the radar. Being Amerasian, Chu explained, brought embarrassment and shame to her family, simply because she was biracial. She went on to share how she and her mother escaped Vietnam and how she was able to start a new life in America.


My coming out letter - Jeremy Johnson



Jeremy Johnson shared the coming-out letter he wrote to his commanding officer in order to show people how it felt to publicly reveal his sexual orientation while in the military. Johnson told us that living with the worry of being outed affected him mentally and physically. Toward the end of his letter he shared a powerful statement that was written on the tombstone of a deceased gay Vietnam veteran:


“When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."


My kids use the ‘N-word’ - Trudy Stergiopoulos



In America, the use of the N-word is a topic that has been debated for years. Many feel the word is insulting and offensive, while others feel the word has been redefined and no longer carries the same connotations. iReporter Trudy Stergiopoulos’ controversial iReport about her son’s use of the N-word sparked a passionate debate about race and parenting. She believes that although the word once had a derogatory meaning, it’s now used in a positive way. Stergiopoulos says that she personally doesn’t use the word, but she allows her children to do so, because they and their friends – of all races – do not think it’s a big deal.


I am not your joke - Tara Elizabeth Grieb



We asked our iReporters who are transgendered, transsexual or grappling with their sexual identities to share a self-portrait that included a sign with a message that incorporated something they wanted people to know about them. iReporter Tara Elizabeth Grieb shared a challenging message that forced people to stop and think. Many transgendered individuals, she said, often find that they feel misunderstood, and Grieb is one of those people. One thing she wanted us to remember is that transgendered men and women are just like everyone else, and that she isn’t “your joke.”


My bullying experience - Ryan Basilio



Bullying is a serious issue that affects people from all walks of life. After coming out of the closet during his freshman year in high school, iReporter Ryan Basilio was continually bullied. When a group of students tried to attack him, he fought back. Basilio went on to explain how his school’s administration failed to step in, and as a result, he went to the American Civil Liberties Union and threatened to sue the school district if it didn’t take action. He shared his story to raise awareness of bullying and to encourage students, parents and teachers to take a stand against it.


These iReports are just small snapshots of the exemplary personal stories that you’ve shared over the years. Your stories have brought a human face to some of the most difficult topics we face today, and we are excited to see what stories you will share in the coming years.

Posted by: katie // August 23, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Come work with Team iReport »


We're getting bigger, folks. Three fantastic new jobs just posted on Team iReport. This is a team that invents something new just about every day, helps tell some of the world's most important stories, and genuinely enjoys one another's company while we're at it. If that sounds like it'd be up your alley -- and you're curious and brilliant and inventive and thoughtful -- by all means please throw your hat in this ring.


Details for each position are below, along with a link to an online application. Good luck!


iReport producer, News


The news producer on Team iReport leads the daily news effort at CNN iReport. That means actively planning, producing and pitching the best of what iReport has to offer on the top stories of the day and weaving iReport seamlessly into the way CNN tells the day's biggest stories. It's the kind of job that demands sharp news judgment, a hunger for the next big development, and some serious powers of persuasion. And of course finely-tuned community journalism chops, since that's what it's all about. This position is based in Atlanta.


See more details and apply »



iReport producer, TV integration


iReporters are ready for their close-ups, and the TV integration producer is responsible for arranging them. The TV integration producer collaborates with colleagues across CNN's global networks to connect the iReport community and stories into television programming. That means coordinating and also creating truly interactive, original, multimedia news storytelling based on what the iReport and CNN audiences have to say. This position is based in Atlanta.


See more details and apply »



iReport writer/producer, Comments


The comments writer/producer is the editorial leader and newsroom cheerleader for comments on The writer/producer fosters lively and respectful conversations on, increases participation by the audience and works to develop a sense of community among contributors. The writer/producer will encourage and highlight interesting conversations on, and lead the way for writers and producers to get involved in lively, meaningful discussions with their readers. This position is based in Atlanta.


See more details and apply »

Posted by:
// August 23, 2011
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Posted in: community
UPDATE: You asked, the White House responds! »

CNN’s own Wolf Blitzer sat down with President Obama last week for an exclusive, one-on-one interview from Peosta, Iowa. Several iReporters submitted questions for the president, on topics ranging from domestic call centers to jobs and the economy to political posturing.


We didn't want your videos to go unanswered, so we sent them to the White House. Not long after, we received video answers to several of your issues from three administration officials. We're sharing them with you now.


View the videos below to see the White House staffers' responses shown in their entirety, along with the question originally posed by the iReporter.


All of the iReporters in turn posted commentaries on the White House videos, and those submissions are now linked as well:




How will you bring call center jobs back to America? (From Steve Gordon of St. Petersburg, Florida)


Answered by: Jen Psaki, Deputy Director of Communications


NEW: View Gordon's response





Can we get assistance for people behind on their mortgages? (From Shawn Louise Blumenfeld of Mount Vernon, Washington)


Also answered by Jen Psaki


NEW: View Blumenfeld's response





As African Americans were largely your base in the first campaign, what opportunities are there to create jobs in America by building Africa? (From Jay O'Conner of New York)


Answered by: Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting


NEW: View O'Conner's response





Where's the progress on alternative fuels? (From Brett Bayne of West Hollywood, California)


Answered by: Dan Utech, Deputy Director for Energy and Climate Change


NEW: View Bayne's response





Why aren't we going toward more options like solar power? (From Marie Cox of North Canton, Ohio)


Also answered by Dan Utech


NEW: View Cox's response



Now it's your turn. What do you think about the responses to the iReporters' questions?


We want to know your views on jobs, fiscal policy, the global economy, fuel, oil independence and beyond. Comment below or sound off on video.

Posted by:
// August 22, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Vote for your favorite Morning Express theme song! »


This summer, iReporters from around the country created original songs for a chance to win the Morning Express with Robin Meade “Rise and Shine” contest. The winning singer/band will get a trip to HLN studios in Atlanta, Georgia, where they will meet Robin Meade and record their song professionally in the studio.


The competition was fierce, with more than 1,500 iReporters vying for a spot in the top 10. And while all genres of music were represented, country songs dominated the scene with several hundred submissions all featuring bluesy guitar. After careful consideration, The Morning Express Team selected the 10 finalists, and now it’s up to you to vote for your favorite finalist here. Voting is limited to one per day and closes at 11:59 p.m. ET on August 20.


Although the Morning Express submissions are closed, there are still plenty of other ways to get the chance to see your work on CNN! Vote for your Morning Express pick and then sign up for the CNN iReport boot camp to learn more about how to get your iReport in the running for a spot on

Posted by: katie // August 22, 2011
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Posted in: community
Top five: iReport breaking news TV interviews »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, CNN International’s Etan Horowitz takes a look at some of the most memorable breaking news interviews with iReporters.


It didn’t take long for me to realize how important iReport is to CNN’s breaking news coverage.  On my second day of work as a CNN International TV producer a massive earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010.


Despite CNN’s global newsgathering resources, we didn’t have a crew on the ground when the earthquake struck. We turned to iReport for some of the first pictures and videos of the disaster.


But obtaining images and video is only one part of covering major breaking news. Equally important is being able to interview someone who experienced the event firsthand, especially for 24-hour news channels such as CNN and CNN International.


Starting with the Haiti earthquake and continuing with nearly every major news event since then, I’ve been amazed that no matter where in the world breaking news occurs, iReporters are always there to document it, and they often are willing to be interviewed live on CNN via cell phone or Skype to describe what they experienced.


Here’s my list of the top five iReport breaking news TV interviews:


Carel Pedre -- Haiti earthquake (January 2010)



One of the first voices to emerge from the Haiti earthquake was radio disc jockey Carel Pedre. A savvy user of technology, Pedre immediately uploaded dramatic photos of the damage to Facebook, Twitter and iReport. About three hours after the earthquake, CNN anchor Michael Holmes interviewed Pedre via Skype on “Larry King Live.”


Mark LaCroix -- Minneapolis bridge collapse (August 2007)



When the Interstate 35 West bridge collapsed during rush hour in Minneapolis, iReporter Mark LaCroix shot some incredible photos with his cell phone. Less than an hour after the collapse, Wolf Blitzer interviewed him live on CNN.


Ryan McDonald -- Japan earthquake (March 2011)



In the hours after a devastating earthquake hit northern Japan, dozens of iReporters submitted incredible footage. Some of the most memorable coverage came from Ryan McDonald, an American English teacher living in Fukushima. I still get chills when I hear McDonald yell, “Oh my God. The building’s gonna fall,” in one of his iReport videos.


During breaking news coverage, CNN International anchor Jim Clancy interviewed McDonald live via Skype for more than six minutes.


In the days and weeks following the quake, McDonald appeared as a guest on numerous CNN shows.


Michael Roberts -- Gulf Coast oil rig explosion (April 2010)



Before the world knew the true magnitude of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, iReporter Michael Roberts captured amazing video of the incident that started it all -- the early morning explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Roberts shot the footage from a nearby rescue boat.


After shooting the video, Roberts drove from the Gulf Coast to Atlanta so he could appear as a guest on several CNN TV shows, including “AC360°.”


His iReport won the 2010 iReport award for best breaking news video.


Kevin Gash -- Kyrgyzstan protests (April 2010)



Nearly a year before the Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East, protesters stormed the central square in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan to demonstrate against perceived corruption by President Kurmanbek Bakiev. Dozens of people were killed in the clashes that successfully drove Bakiev from office.


It was 20 minutes before the start of “The Brief” on CNN International, and the Kyrgyzstan protests were the big story. Yet CNN did not have a reporter in place in the capital of Bishkek. The show’s producer was frantically looking for someone in Kyrgyzstan to appear as a live guest. I had just seen a vetted iReport from Kevin Gash, an American graduate student in Bishkek. We got in touch with Gash, and 20 minutes later he was being interviewed live via Skype on CNN International.


Thank you to all the iReporters who have appeared as guests on CNN during the past five years. CNN’s breaking news coverage would be incomplete without you.

Posted by: katie // August 22, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
CNN iReport roundtable: Boot camp week one update »

The roundtable for week one is now closed. Thank you to everyone who joined us. Unfortunately, we only had time to discuss 10 of the stories. We wish we could have talked about all of them.


If you have any questions about your story or about boot camp, please post them in the comment section below. To see what was said during the roundtable, go here and scroll down to the comment section.


If you were not able to participate in this week's boot camp assignment, it's not to late. You can start this week and still be in the running for a byline. For more details, visit our iReport boot camp page.


We will open our next assignment, along with a tips piece by Writer John Sutter, tomorrow morning. This will be a fun week, as we have two of our CNN researchers helping out this week as well.


Tune in tomorrow for new updates on boot camp, and we can't wait to see what you have for us in week two!

Posted by: ccostello3 // August 18, 2011
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Posted in: community
Top five: Unforgettable iReport songs »

Editor's note: iReport, CNN's citizen journalism initiative, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, we take a look at some of the best user-submitted music videos.


Through the years, some iReporters have been inspired to comment on the news in song. We've had some incredibly creative music videos in the past five years that have truly run the gamut. Here are five that really made an impact. And now -- on with the countdown!


A New Song for Haiti


Filmmaker Antoni Ansarov came up with this well-crafted video, co-produced in Cameroon, France and the U.S., in the wake of the devastating Haiti earthquake in 2010. Since then, he has worked with the Serbian band, Clash of Civilizations.


Hire Me


Al Biedrzycki's musical resume certainly struck a chord (no pun intended), landing him on HLN and Live, as millions of Americans looked for jobs. Thankfully, in the ensuing two years, he has found employment: "After the resume was picked up on the news, I began getting contacted for interviews (and called back for secondary ones too), but initially ended up jobless from lack of experience. People liked my creativity but couldn't justify hiring me over my entry level qualifications," he said.

It turns out that good old fashioned networking ended up getting him a job with Scratch Marketing + Media in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "I'd say the music resume was a nice motivation boost for me at the time and it definitely had an impact on where I am today. The job hunt can be tough for anyone, so receiving those interview and networking opportunities were very valuable, even if they didn't lead anywhere in particular at the time. You never know who you'll reconnect with down the road!"


Pain at the Pump


Veteran musician Brent Burns was compelled to write this song out of outrage at higher gas prices in 2008, and followed it up with a song on the Gulf oil spill last year, which affected his hometown of Gulf Shores, Alabama. "I've been on the road touring to include a recent appearance in Prague, Czech Republic.  My 9th CD is scheduled for release in September, 2011."



The Wall Street Punk Rock Polka


Among the most unique takes on a news story, Cubicle has found that their 2009 music videos resonates once again today, with the ups and downs in the stock market.

"Cubicle is still making music and plans to release a new EP entitled "The Severance Package," a collection of 6 new hard-hitting songs which will be coming out in September 2011," said lead singer Sean Cawley. "The songs are thematically tied to living and breathing in today's rough and tough economy, possibly the worst economic time since the Great Depression."


Ghost on a Stick


Halloween inspired one of Greg Reese's many music videos for iReport (we mentioned the Sarah Palin rap video in an earlier list). There is nothing quite like this, to the point where one of our interns was inspired to create her own "ghost on a stick."

"Thanks To CNN iReport, I've continued to create political songs and videos as well as silly video content. Also I have taken my 'Greg Reese, guy on the street' interviewing to another level."


If you've got a song in your heart, don't be afraid to post it on iReport. Until then, (with apologies to Casey Kasem) keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars!

Posted by:
// August 19, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: Most-viewed iReports »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Here, CNN PR’s April Andrews revisits the five most-viewed iReports of all time.


I’ve been on the publicity team that promotes iReport ever since I joined the CNN public relations department in 2008. It has been a delight to watch its evolution, from receiving an iReport submission from every country to watching this amazing community grow into more than 880,000 registered users.


It has been even more rewarding to have the opportunity to share with the press and people outside CNN the individual stories that we receive every day from iReporters across the globe. These iReport contributors come to share news that they witness in their own backyards, videos that include passionate points of view and stories that affect and shape their lives.


Whether it is breaking news or something happening in local communities, thanks to CNN iReport, our users have a platform to share and surface stories about which you might otherwise never hear.


Of course, there are some iReport stories that resonate with users beyond all others. Here are the top five most-viewed iReports of all time:


210,000 Christmas lights



This isn't your everyday Christmas lights show. It took iReporter Bob Cox around three months to hang more than 210,000 Christmas lights on his Pittsburgh home and more than six months to program the display. The spectacular display is our most-viewed iReport: It’s been shared more than 1,200 times, was e-mailed almost 5,000 times, and has appeared on CNN TV.


National Go Topless Day at Venice Beach



iReport is also a place where users can go to express their opinions and to sound off on issues about which they are passionate. When hundreds of women came out to Venice Beach in Los Angeles to celebrate National Go Topless Day in August 2010, iReporter Julie Ellerton was there to interview attendees. This video garnered nearly 1,000 comments from users who debated whether or not women should be allowed topless in public.


President Obama heckled on fan shuttle bus



Our third most-viewed iReport is from Elwood, Illinois. After a rained-out Memorial Day speech in 2010, President Barack Obama made a surprise appearance on a shuttle bus. CNN iReporter Brent Ardaugh was on the bus with his camera when a fellow passenger started heckling the president. His video captured a rare glimpse of the president.


Millions of Facebook members protest new layout



When Facebook significantly changed its user interface in 2008, it not only was a topic around the water cooler, but people took to the Internet to express their displeasure. iReporter Trevor Dougherty, then 17, shared his views on the social-networking site and interviewed the teenager who had started a Facebook group (with more than 1.5 million members) intended to protest the new Facebook.


Robertson: Hate and Haiti



The fifth most-viewed iReport comes from cartoonist Brixton Doyle, who took aim at televangelist Pat Robertson and his controversial comments about the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Roberts said the quake was a result of Haitians making a pact with the devil. Doyle’s cartoon was shared almost 3,000 times and sparked more than 1,000 passionate comments from fellow iReporters.


If you have a story to tell or an opinion on the news, encourages you to share it with iReport. Who knows? Maybe your submission will be the next iReport to make this list!

Posted by: katie // August 18, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
The art of handwriting »


If you're a regular reader, you may have noticed several stories on handwriting over the past week. We took a look at how friends and family can influence handwriting changes; questioned whether Americans’ handwriting skills are worsening; and caught up with a handwriting expert, whose spot-on analysis surprised some iReporters. And in the coming days, you can expect to see stories on cursive, the history of the English alphabet, and a quiz that tests your skills when it comes to identifying handwriting.


So, why all the focus on handwriting lately? It’s part of our year-long cultural census project. We asked iReporters to submit handwriting samples and stories like these allow us to take a closer look at the submissions we’ve received.


I’ve always loved seeing others’ handwriting. My parents, both schoolteachers, have excellent penmanship, and that’s something they worked to pass along to my brother and I. My handwriting certainly isn’t perfect, but I like it – I like to think of it as an extension of my personality.


Given my fascination with handwriting, it’s no surprise that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading iReporters’ stories and checking out their various styles. Kari Brigham of Geneva, Illinois, learned to like her handwriting after years of practicing it; Cindy Schultz of Franklin, Wisconsin, prefers all-caps; and Bethany Mellon of Oxford, Alabama, has constantly struggled with her penmanship.


But it was William Rowan’s unique, artistic style that immediately caught my eye. Rowan, who’s from Lansing, Michigan, calls his handwriting “italigraph,” and says “it’s modeled after the writing of the great Renaissance italic calligraphers.” He makes it a point to practice handwriting a bit every day, and knows how meaningful a handwritten note can be as opposed to an email or text message.


“It seems to mean so much to people to receive a handwritten note of thanks, admiration, encouragement,” he said. “I certainly do enjoy brightening people’s day.”


What’s your handwriting look like? It’s not too late to add it to the mix! (And, while you’re at it, you can take a self-portrait, record an audio sample, make a typical meal, and show us how you get around town.) Ultimately, we plan to collect all of the submissions, pair them with census data, and hopefully learn some interesting things about the iReport community.

Posted by: katie // August 17, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Top five: iReporters' tough questions »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today we're looking at some of our favorite interview moments.


When we found out that President Barack Obama was going to be in "The Situation Room" on Tuesday, one of the first questions we asked was "can we get some questions from iReporters?" We weren't sure we'd be able to get all the details worked out, but it was a huge opportunity for our community, so we decided to give it a shot.


The response was great – about 45 questions in less than two hours – but we weren't able to include them in the interview. We are sending the best ones to the White House to get answers.


That passionate response has made the iReport Interview a regular feature on iReporters have a lot of great questions, and we've found that the actors, athletes, musicians, experts and even Anderson Cooper seem to enjoy the change of pace.


Here are five of our favorite interview questions:


Interviewing the future president


iReporters were out on the campaign trail in 2008 and contributed questions to many of the presidential hopefuls, including then-Sen. Barack Obama. Frequent iReporter Jimmy Deol asked Obama about possible V.P. picks.


'We just got interviewed by a Muppet?'



"Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World" actors Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman and director Edgar Wright had a lot of fun when they were in the newsroom for their interview. They were playing with the iPad, holding hands and putting on jewelry. Then it got weird… The first question came from Matt Sky's puppet alter ego Ted Krasdale, which sent the stars on a hilarious detour. "I just thought he had a weird disease or something," Cera said.


'I'm obsessed with that dog'


Glee cast


Andy Clinton got out his guitar and sang his question for the cast of "Glee", but his dog, Indiana, stole the show. Lea Michele laughed and said she was obsessed with the pup, who sat almost motionless on the couch during Clinton's question.


'That's untapped talent right there'


Arthur interview

Russell Brand and Helen Mirren were blown away by iReporters' special effects when they sat down to talk about their movie “Arthur.” Cougar Littleton dressed like Batman and imitated the Dark Knight's gravelly voice while Andy Clinton braved a digital tempest, complete with thunder and lightning.


Seeing isn't everything



Cloris Leachman

It's been great to be able to load iReport questions onto a tablet or smartphone, because it gives the stars a chance to see who they're talking to. They can't always hear them though. Actress Cloris Leachman held an iPad up to her ear like a phone so she could hear what iReporters wanted to know. It seemed a little unusual at the time, but we saw Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne do the same thing a few months later.


Thank you all for making the iReport Interview such an exciting part of CNN's coverage. There are a lot more interviews in the works, so we hope you'll share your questions.

Posted by:
// August 17, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Your collective letter to the president »


CNN's Wolf Blitzer sat down with President Barack Obama for a one-on-one interview today, giving us all a bit of greater insight into the presidential mindset as the 2012 election season heats up.


We asked iReporters to share what they would have liked to ask the president, and we got a huge response. We received 45 submissions, most of them videos, on a pretty tight deadline. But the way things worked out, the 11th hour arrived and we weren't able to get the questions in front of the president himself.


This news was discouraging, but we found that we were still fascinated by the huge response and the depth of thinking in each question. So we decided to comb through the videos and see what thematic threads emerged.


After we finished doing that, we picked a short list of questions that represented the group and sent them to the White House to try and get some answers.


We discovered that the questions you asked seem to form a composite letter to the president. Some topics kept popping up, and that gave us an idea of the kinds of things people are concerned about:


Jobs and economy

We noticed that several submitters wanted to know what could be done to help the economy. People are still worried about their financial futures, and about jobs. In one poignant question, Steve Gordon of St. Petersburg, Florida, wondered, "What will you do to bring call center jobs back to America?" Jay O'Conner of New York asked if there was a way to increase jobs and help Africa at the same time.


On a broader level, we heard quite a bit about fiscal policy. Shawn Louise Blumenfeld of Mt. Vernon, Washington, posed a question about getting assistance for those who are behind on their mortgage payments.


Political posturing

Many submitters discussed civility in politics and the role of parties. Some iReporters questioned whether Obama should try to keep the peace. Frederic Lumiere of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, called the president a "polarizing figure," and wondered if he would consider not running. On the other hand, some thought Obama wasn't rocking the boat enough with the Republicans. "They won't cooperate anyway, so why are you so nice to them?" asked Terry Campbell of San Francisco, California.


Energy and beyond

We also got a lot of questions about specific policy areas. Among these, fuel and energy were prominent themes. Marie Cox of North Canton, Ohio, asked why we aren't exploring alternative energy sources, while Brett Bayne of West Hollywood, California, asked about alternative fuels. Interestingly, both submitters argued that new jobs could be created in the process.


Our legacy

Finally, some wondered what people will think about us in the future. "What will history say about this generation?" Tommy Taylor of Round Rock, Texas, asked.


Now we're putting the spotlight back on you. Take a look at these questions we've just mentioned and let us know what you think in the comments area below. If you were going to write a letter to the president, what would you put in it? Tell us what you would ask, and what answers you would like to see.

Posted by:
// August 16, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Top five: Amazing health stories »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Here, CNN health writer Elizabeth Landau shares five incredible stories she's worked on with iReport.



It's been a privilege to see CNN's iReport grow into a powerful force for citizen journalism in the past five years, and as a health reporter I've tremendously enjoyed talking with iReporters about everything from autism to brain cancer to finding birth parents.


Here are some of my favorite iReport projects: 


For disabled parents, challenges are a bonding point: One video I'll never forget was of Sarah Kovac changing her son's diaper with her feet. She and many other iReporters with disabilities shared the challenges and joys of parenting.


When a bullied kid grows up: Mike Sarkany was open and honest in his iReport about how he still feels like he's hiding from bullies. His story shows that the effects of bullying really can last a lifetime. 


Born in male body, Jenny knew early that she was a girl: This story about sex changes opened our eyes to the deep struggles of being a person born into a body that feels wrong. Some people say changing genders is one of the best things they've done. 


Celebrating life on the anniversary of a death: We invited iReporters to share how they remember their loved ones who have passed away, and received many touching memorial stories. Sukhraj Beasla does something special involving books on the anniversary of her grandfather's death because he was the reason she fell in love with books.


Who controls the thermostat in your home?: This was one of the funniest iReport projects I've worked on. We invited iReporters to vent their frustrations about temperature control in their families. Michelle Ladyzhynsky submitted a video about the "thermo wars" in her home.


If you have an amazing health story to share, please do! And you can always check out the iReport assignment desk to see what we're looking for.

Posted by: katie // August 16, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: A love letter to iReport  »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Here, CNN's Manav Tanneeru shares five reasons why he loves iReport.



If you asked me about iReport, I might tell you of its virtues and its flaws.


I might use words like “citizen journalism” and “user-generated content.” I might relate the theories that hover around it and occupy panels at conferences.


I might read from the many press releases sent out over the years extolling its successes. And, tell you about passionate debates scrutinizing its impact on journalism.


But that may bore you. It certainly bores me.


What might make better conversation are a litany of memories -- some overly sentimental and saccharine -- from the first five years of its existence, memories that I think encompass the purpose of the project.


Carroll Street Café


In Atlanta, down a street off of where Boulevard curves onto Memorial Drive, sits Carroll Street Café, a little bistro where the sunlight falls onto the wooden tables like in the movies.


When we were young -- when we were younger -- Lila King and I would meet there for lunch. It was a monthly appointment, rarely broken, other than that one time I had a cold and that other time Lila forgot because she was trying on wedding dresses.


One afternoon, with her nose scrunched up, her eyes peeking out from under her Lisa Loeb glasses and bangs that fell just so, she said in her singsongy voice, “Everyone has a story to tell, all you have to do is listen.”


Years later, Lila founded iReport.


Home and Away


Joshua Lee Rath was 22 when he died in Maywand, Afghanistan. He was killed in January 2009 when a suicide bomber detonated a homemade device.


There are thousands other such stories, thousands such names.


During the past few years, a few of us at have managed a list of those names. We update that list every day with updates of casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq.


In 2010, we started a project, “Home and Away,” that tells the story of where and how the lives of these troops began and ended.


During “Home and Away’s” creation, someone suggested that iReport find a way to let family and friends of the fallen contribute messages and memories.


As a result, slowly, over time, the project became a virtual memorial of sorts. And the names began to have stories, habits, memories -- in essence, a past that could be shared.


In one such story, a loved one described when she first fell for Joshua Rath during a seemingly normal and innocuous day at a pool.


“It began when I watched him swimming, those small flutterings of a crush,” she remembered.


“It was when he came to me soaking wet and gave me a huge hug and kiss on the cheek I knew I wanted more than a friendship. And, it was when I saw him consoling a friend and trying to cheer him up I knew he was The One.


“Thus began the most wonderful, exciting, amazing, most beautiful experience of my life. I got to love the greatest man I've ever known and I got to be loved by him”




Katie Hawkins-Gaar, a colleague who possesses the unique ability to smile and frown at the same time, loves New Orleans.


That adoration, which sometimes borders on the irrational, made it obvious that she ought to cover the five-year anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina struck.


A couple of years ago, Katie began a small project to combine historic photographs of locations in her neighborhood with photos of how they look today. The idea came from Flickr's Looking Into the Past group.


She took the project to grander heights in New Orleans, organizing a slew of iReporters to document the state of the Louisiana city in comparison to how it was immediately after the storm.


You always hope that daydreams and projects you think of with friends and hatch excitedly over a pint of beer become something concrete and real, even useful.


That was one that did.




In January 2010, an earthquake struck Haiti.


Hours after the quake was first reported, we realized that it would be devastating. After another day or so, we knew thousands had died and many more were missing.


During the course of those first few days, a number of reports and submissions about the missing poured into iReport.


It quickly became obvious that iReport had become not just a way to cover the story but also help a community in need. 


By the week’s end, plans were in place to create a database that would organize the reports of the missing. The hope was that the community could add more reports, search the ones already there and respond to them if they had news and updates.


But it wasn’t so easy to organize all the reports that had already come into CNN. The volume overwhelmed the newsroom staff, and this database -- this tool -- was something that needed to be created quickly.


The iReport community came to the rescue.


Mobilized by an array of spreadsheets and e-mail, iReporters from across the globe jumped into the data and began the arduous and painstaking process of organizing it.


During the course of a few days, as a community of strangers helped another, a database was created that included more than 10,000 entries.


The next five


Lila and I don’t much go to Carroll Street anymore.


It’s been years since we have. I’ve grown a littler rounder in places since the last time we did. And Lila has learned a lot more about the intricacies of business travel and the vagaries of presentations to strangers.


But we still chat, sometimes during a walk around CNN Center, sometimes on the stairs at her house or at a pub down the street.


A few weeks ago, we were in Washington. After a morning of meetings, we walked around the monuments. Later, overcome by tired legs, we settled on a rickety bench by the lawn between the Washington Monument and the Capitol.


I drained a bottle of water and wiped the sweat off my forehead. She stretched her legs and the pigeons hopped away. And, we got to reminiscing, like we sometimes do, about why we do the work we do.


And, yes, our conversations are now more littered with words like “verticals” and other business school jargon neither of us ever learned formally. But, despite the fact we’re older and perhaps a bit more preoccupied by things neither of us ever saw coming, not much has changed since the Carroll Street days.


Her nose scrunched up, she peeked out from beneath her glasses and said in her singsongy voice, “So, what are we going to do now?”


We’ll see, Lila, we’ll see.

Posted by: katie // August 15, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Walk around London: Location-based reporting and the UK riots »


Christian Binder-Skagnæs was taking a walk through the city, checking out the scene of ongoing riots in London. He came to Oxford Circus, a typically bustling spot, and found an eerie scene.


"The area is dead; everything closed. Very heavy police presence and (apparently) gathering hoodies," he wrote in an iReport he posted about his experience.


His post wasn't like most other iReports. There was no photo, and no video. Just a location, a map point and a short description. As news unfolded, he shifted to new locations and made note of what he was seeing around him. As it turns out, anyone with a smartphone can make a post like this, as long as they have cell phone service.


iReport has a partnership with the location-based Gowalla network that allows you to add a CNN iReport "highlight" to a particular location, which automatically posts an iReport here at via the Gowalla account.


We launched the feature in March at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, but we haven't yet seen anyone use it the way Binder-Skagnæs did. He was taking a tour of the city, adding CNN iReport highlights to locations he visited to tell a little bit about what was going on at each.


If you're not familiar with Gowalla, it's like a lot of other location-based sites in that it allows users to digitally "check in" at places they visit. One thing that's unique about it is users can tag locations with "highlights" that tell users something about a place. The CNN iReport highlight is like a badge that signifies that a newsworthy event has occurred at a particular location.


Binder-Skagnæs visited restaurants, hotels and shopping spots to find out what was going on. Crowds gathered and dissipated, and police made their presence known. Many restaurants in London, like The Ledbury, were closing down. Binder-Skagnæs made note of it all via Gowalla.


"Chefs came out of the kitchens wielding knives," he wrote.


We put up an Open Story about the London riots that allows people to post iReports on the situation in London in real time. Several of Binder-Skagnæs' Gowalla posts appear on the map. They, along with the photos and videos from iReporters and CNN correspondents alike, help show how the news developed.


If you have the Gowalla app, we encourage you to give it a shot. Walk around town and add a couple highlights, especially if you see something interesting going on. If you're in London and happen to be witnessing the ongoing riots, all the more reason to try it out. (But exercise caution and be safe, of course. We don't want anyone to get into trouble!)


We treat these posts just like any iReport, and your submission could become a part of CNN's coverage. And of course, we're still looking for photos and video from the riots, so if you have captured images, you can still share them at CNN iReport as well.


What do you think about these real-time posts, and about the situation in London? Post your thoughts in the comments area below.

Posted by:
// August 11, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Top five: iReport's rainbow colors »

Editor's note: iReport, CNN's citizen journalism initiative, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, we’re taking a look at some of our shiniest rainbow imagery. Many thanks to Seattle band Wonderful, for letting us pair their song "Rainbow Colors" to the video compilation seen below.


Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. In grade school you may have been taught to remember the colors of the rainbow by using the name "Roy G. Biv" as a mnemonic. But when I think of rainbows, I can only remember one name: Hungrybear9562.

Paul Vasquez, aka. Hungrybear9562, aka. "Double Rainbow Guy," delighted millions of people with his highly entertaining video and voice-over reaction to a double rainbow at Yosemite, California, which went viral in January 2010.

His video inspired us to create an assignment to welcome rainbow photos and videos. iReporters didn't need to be told twice. To date we've received hundreds of iReports documenting this colorful phenomenon.

Here are five of our favorites.


One of the most "intense" double rainbows we've seen was recorded by iReporter Mike Stouffer of Wausau, Wisconsin, on May 4, 2010. When I first saw his photos, I immediately thought the rainbow had been "Photoshopped," but then my jaw dropped when I saw his video. Mike says he "looked for the pot of gold," but it was nowhere to be found. He thinks of that rainbow as a "symbol of hope."

Natural beauty

This beautiful rainbow comes courtesy of John O'Neal, who captured it in late June 2009 at Yellowstone National Park. He says, "The rainbow brought peace after what was quite a severe and sudden storm. This was the first time I've been able to see an entire rainbow from one end to the other. As you walk and drive, the rainbow travels with you as if you are stationary. It's quite an awesome sight."

Electric photo bomb

David Johnson's double rainbow stands out with its electric "photo bomb." He says that while he was photographing the rainbow during a sunset in Ridgecrest, California, his daughter asked him to try to get a shot of the lightning with the rainbow. He explains, "I got lucky and captured it on the first attempt. I tried (unsuccessfully) several more times to get another, but none were as good as the first."

Color stitching

This double rainbow appeared over Dobbs Ferry, New York, on October 1, 2010, after the remnants of tropical storm Nicole passed through the region. iReporter Rob Mintzes stitched together six different images to create this high quality rendition.

A different kind of rainbow apple

And just on July 13, Nicholas Kistner submitted video of this beautiful double rainbow hanging over Manhattan. "I thought it looked really cool, and I had to get it on camera," Kistner said.

The beauty of rainbows is clear to see in these and all the wonderful iReports we've received over the years. But, to quote Hungrybear9562, "What does it mean?"

I think Mike Stouffer hit the nail on the head. Rainbows will always be "symbols of hope." They remind us of the beauty of the world, a beauty that outlasts storms, catastrophes, credit downgrades, political scandals and other breaking news.

We hope you'll keep them coming. Have you ever taken a picture of a double rainbow? Share your photos and videos here on CNN iReport.

Posted by:
// August 12, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: Best photojournalism on iReport »

Editor's note: iReport, CNN's citizen journalism initiative, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the best examples of photojournalism.


Sometimes it’s hard to grasp the full extent of a story if you’re not there. In some cases, you need to see what’s going on before you can believe it.


What really brings it home for me are the photographs, the windows into the emotions of the people who are witnessing the news firsthand. Here are five indelible images that represent some of the best examples of photojournalism on iReport:



Pakistan flooding

In 2010, Pakistan faced the worst deluge it had experienced in 80 years. Filmmaker Alizeh Imtiaz traveled 250 miles across the country and photographed intimate portraits of Pakistanis affected by the flood. She also brought supplies to these remote areas, which had seen little aid from nonprofit groups.


"I took my camera in these rough conditions. I spent four or five days in the area so I could get to know the people," Imtiaz said. "I wanted to stay so people could see the desperation and devastation." She took the time to listen to their stories, which is key to great storytelling.



Typhoon Ketsana

Pasig City, Philippines, almost looked like the Venice of the East after Typhoon Ketsana swept through in 2009, inundating cities and forcing people to get around on makeshift rafts. Many were stuck on the roofs of their homes, waiting for the water to recede. Photographer Doranne Lim captured the panic from the best vantage point: a rooftop.



San Bruno explosion

Professional photographer Chris Honeysett got right up to the fire just after the massive gas-line explosion that destroyed dozens of homes in San Bruno, California, last year. His powerful black and white photos of firefighters "shrouded in smoke" painted the urgency of the situation. We used this well-composed photo as the lead image on



Oslo attacks

On a quiet Friday morning last month, reports of an explosion at a government building in Oslo, Norway, started trickling in. One of the first images we received blew me away. Immediately, we cropped Trond Lindholm’s photo of three bandaged German tourists near the site of the explosion and moments later, it was the lead image on, both domestic and international editions. The tragedy and the atmosphere were captured in that single photo.



Haiti earthquake

Not long after an earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, left more than 200,000 people dead and thousands missing, several iReporters made their way there to help. Bobby Moon, who was a photography student at the time, was one of them. He made it his quest to tell the story of the people who survived the disaster.


At the site of a mass grave in Port-au-Prince, black cloth strewn across a white metal cross sat atop a hill. "The stillness of the site is haunting and the midday sun, baking the ground, distorted the air with a suggestive haze and haphazard motion," said Moon. Sometimes, a quiet scene speaks volumes about a situation, as it did here.


Whether you take a portrait wrought with raw emotion or press the shutter at the perfect time to capture a breaking news moment, all of these photographs have a story to tell. For inspiration, I’ve kept a collection of the most stunning news photographs submitted to iReport. Please continue to share your excellent photojournalism with us, iReporters. You inspire us all everyday.

Posted by:
// August 11, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: Salute to Troops »

Editor's note: iReport, CNN's citizen journalism initiative, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, HLN’s Grayson Thagard shares his thoughts on the ever-popular “Salute to Troops” series.



When iReport was born five years ago this month, "Morning Express with Robin Meade" was still called "Robin & Company." We had been saluting military men and women on air for about a year. But it was a clunky process.


The very first "Salute to Troops" came in the form of a patch that arrived in an actual envelope. In the mail. I know, right? Pony Express-style! We had e-mail, of course, but no webpage, no Salute to Troops blog, and certainly no Facebook. So when iReport came to us and said, "Look what we can do!," we paid attention.


Not long after that, “Morning Express” had an assignment on iReport where military family members, girlfriends, boyfriends, friends or anyone who knew someone special serving his or her country could go and salute a hero.  Since then, loved ones have come to iReport hundreds of times to praise service members, and Robin has been honored to put those salutes on TV every day from 6 a.m. to noon ET at about 10 minutes after the hour.


There was no way to choose five of our favorite or five of the best Salute to Troops. No soldier, sailor, corpsman or airman's service can be ranked in such a way. Nor can that of any military family member. Luckily for us, there are five branches of the military, and we'd like to take the occasion of iReport's fifth birthday to suggest you spend a couple minutes surfing the salutes for each: (in no particular order) Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.


Do you have someone in the military who you would like to salute on "Morning Express with Robin Meade?"  Here are a few tips for getting your submission on air:


Images: Upload more than two pictures, and make sure they are candid shots (it's hard to get permission to use professional photos on the air).


Video: If you can, upload a moving picture telling us about your "troop." It doesn't have to be fancy, just look into your laptop cam or shoot the video on your phone. (The CNN mobile app is great for doing that!) It's not totally necessary, but “Morning Express” is a TV show, so we naturally like video. Be sure to shoot for at least 20 seconds.


Sound: You can write a script if you want, but don’t forget to smile when you talk. Trust me, it makes a huge difference. Your troop wants to hear a happy you, not a sad you.


Contact: Make sure you leave us a way to get in touch with you. A phone number is best, but at the very least, leave an e-mail address.


Info: Know your hero's full name, rank and unit, and be prepared to talk about why you are proud of him or her (that last part is the easy part).


That's all there is to it. Just imagine how your loved one will react when they see Robin introduce the salute on HLN or the American Forces Network!


Thanks to all of you who have already uploaded salutes. Thanks to those of you in the armed forces for your service. And thanks to iReport for five years of making it easy for friends and family members to salute the troops every day on “Morning Express with Robin Meade.” If you have a salute to share, you can upload it here.

Posted by: katie // August 10, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: Political iReports »

Editor's note: iReport, CNN's citizen journalism initiative, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, we're taking a look at some of the most interesting political iReports.


CNN iReport has always been a place for lively discussion, but there is no other topic that gets iReporters talking quite like politics. The 2008 presidential election season was a particularly eventful time for iReport with thousands flocking to the user-generated site as a sounding board for ideas and discussion. From hilarious music parodies to impassioned speeches, iReporters showed off their political prowess with some of the most creative photos and videos on the internet.


Fortunately, this passion did not dwindle with the end of the election season. Since 2008, political assignments have continued to thrive on and the recent debt-crisis in the U.S. has already sparked a new wave of great conversation. Here are some of the most creative and most inspiring political iReports we’ve received over the years:




Sarah Palin meets America: Sarah Palin’s vice presidential bid with the Republican Party was one of the most memorable parts of the 2008 election. In his iReport, Greg Reese helped to summarize Sarah Palin’s affect on the American public with a hilarious rap music video. Reese also filmed an equally hilarious  music video about President Obama and Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain



"Joe-the-Plumber" becomes overnight sensation: Presidential candidates weren’t the only subjects of iReport music videos during the 2008 election season. Election theme song “Joe the Plumber” is a spoof on the media frenzy caused by a simple question posed by Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher--a.k.a "Joe the Plumber"-- to Obama as he campaigned on his street. The video was uploaded by iReporter Fred Wilharm.



Santa Cruz celebrates the 2008 election: iReporter Lawrence Rachleff captured this great video of the streets in Santa Cruz, California, as the entire city erupted in jubilation after it was announced that Barack Obama had won the presidency.


“The excitement was in the air and cheers and joy spilled into the streets,” Rachleff said. “It was terrific to see all races, nationalities, religions and ages celebrating this historic night together.”



Health care reform takes center stage: Not long after President Obama took office, the topic of health care reform surged to the forefront of the political conversation. One iReporter, Desire Grover, uploaded a video to iReport where she shared her frustration about bickering in Washington politics.


“Why do we hang on to every word of these politicians when it is their every word that keeps us in the dark about what is really going on,” Grover said. “Have ‘we the people’ forgotten that we are the government?”



Decatur puts Washington politics in one word: On July 26, the morning after President Barack Obama and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner addressed the nation on the economy, iReporter Sam D. hit the streets and asked people to sum up Washington in one word.


“If I could tell President Obama one thing it would be to compromise. Be adults and think about us, not the next election,” he said.


The 2012 election season is almost here and have a lot of great things in store for iReport. Stay tuned and upload your own photos and videos to join the political conversation.

Posted by: CortneeH // August 9, 2011
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Top five: iReports that defined year one »

Editor's note: iReport, CNN's citizen journalism initiative, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, original iReport team member Tyson Wheatley takes a look at some of the moments that made iReport what it is today.


The original Team iReport! From left: Robert Felker, Tyson Wheatley, Catherine Andrews, Lila King, and Karyn Lu.


Year one for CNN iReport began five years ago, on August 2, 2006, as a simple webpage inviting CNN's global audience to share breaking news. It was, in many ways, an experiment. We had many supporters within CNN, but there were others who questioned the wisdom of inviting so-called citizen journalists into our professional world. There were four of us manning the iReport desk on day one – all borrowed from different parts of CNN. I'm proud to say I was one of them.


Our tiny but feisty team encountered many challenges and milestones that first year - each a powerful learning lesson. Here are five moments that defined year one:


The death of Steve Irwin: The news of '"Croc Hunter" Steve Irwin's accidental death on September 4, 2006, drew incredible interest from readers. The question was raised whether we should invite our audience to share iReports. Yes! But what should we ask? We didn't realize that the answer was already waiting for us.


You see, back then, iReports weren't public like they are now. They landed in a database that only CNN producers could see. Without being prompted by CNN, iReporters were already filling up our database with emotional tributes to Irwin. There were photos from people who had met him, and others had seen his live show at the Australia Zoo. There were videos of children dressed as "The Croc Hunter" for Halloween, and about a dozen from imitators who captured live animals in their backyards. One of our favorites: A simple hand-drawn picture of a teary-eyed crocodile from 11-year-old Matthew Cheek.


We learned that day that we needed to listen carefully to our audience. iReports were clearly more than just breaking news. They were also about letting our audience be a part of the stories they cared about most.


Quake strikes Hawaii: On October 15, 2006, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake and numerous aftershocks struck the west part of Hawaii's Big Island. Many parts of the state were without electricity, including some of CNN's local affiliates. As a result, iReport images - like Erin Baldwin Brown's picture of a damaged historic church in Kohala - were among the first available until Hawaii's TV stations could spring into action.


Why was this significant? Images and information are vital in breaking news, and iReports helped carry our network for about six critical hours of coverage. For producers still questioning the value of citizen journalism, this was a wake-up call.


Survival stories: As part of a special report called "Saving Your Life," hundreds of cancer survivors used iReport to share their stories of sacrifice and physical suffering as well as strength and determination. Mike Koprowski, who survived testicular cancer at age 22, was among the many iReporters whose words and pictures show us what cancer truly is, beyond the statistics.


Lesson learned: More often than not, it's the deeply personal connection iReporters have with the stories they share that make them so interesting. Over the years, iReporters have continued to enhance CNN's ability to tackle complex themes by sharing their most personal experiences, memories and life-changing events with us.


Virginia Tech: Jamal Albarghouti's grainy cell phone video offered the only known scenes of the drama unfolding early in the morning of April 16, 2007, when a gunman went on a rampage on the campus of Virginia Tech, killing 32 students and faculty members. His video was broadcast around the globe on CNN minutes after it was sent in via iReport and was viewed nearly 3 million times on Days later, a victims profile page based largely on iReport material became the most trafficked, single-feature element in's history.


This tragic event was a watershed moment in iReport's history, drawing unprecedented attention not only to CNN iReport, but to the importance of citizen journalism efforts around the globe. Not only that, but Albarghouti's cell phone would later be displayed in the Newseum in Washington, D.C.


The Minneapolis bridge collapse: On August 1, 2007 -- the eve of iReport’s first anniversary -- an eight-lane bridge on Interstate 35W in Minneapolis suddenly collapsed during rush hour, sending dozens of vehicles plunging into the Mississippi River and killing 13 people. Mark Lacroix sent photos of the scene immediately after and provided information about the situation to viewers live on CNN TV with Wolf Blitzer.


Lacroix's images were among the more than 450 iReports sent to CNN within the first 24 hours of the bridge's collapse -- the biggest response in one day to a single news event in our brief history.


This event happened in the evening, past the iReport team’s normal working hours. It just happened that we were staffed that night (working on our first anniversary coverage). Our key lesson was that we needed to beef up the ranks, so after this event, we increased our evening staffing and established formal training for colleagues across CNN platforms. Today, the iReport editorial team is made up of 10 people – much more than our initial group of four – and countless colleagues across CNN have been trained to use the iReport system.



Posted by: katie // August 8, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: Awe-inspiring travel photos »

Editor's note: iReport, CNN's citizen journalism initiative, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today,'s Ashley Strickland takes a look at some of her favorite user-submitted travel photos.


Choosing a Travel Photo of the Day that transports's audience to a new destination is one of my favorite tasks, but it’s kind of like deciding which path to follow in a choose-your-own-adventure novel.


Contributors to iReport began uploading their best or most intriguing photos early on, and it’s a tradition they continue. Pausing for a few moments to click through the newest submissions takes me on an adventure. Five minutes later, I feel as though I’ve been spirited away and taken by the hand on a trip around the world.


Connecting with iReporters and hearing the stories behind the photographs is food for this journalist’s soul. Each journey, whether it’s clear across the globe or in a neighborhood park, has personal significance. Sharing it with the world can inspire others to set out on their own journeys.


So when I choose pictures for this assignment, my top criteria isn’t based on musings of “Ooh, pretty travel photo!” or “I traveled to the most exotic locale.” Instead, it’s about the journey. What does this photo mean to you? What sensations does it summon within others? Can this one image take you there?


For your viewing pleasure, here are five of my favorite photo submissions.



Mountain gorillas of Rwanda and Uganda:Travel photos often aren’t just about the location but a subject that communicates its impressions. Animal photos are always a big hit, but L. Craig Smith’s close-up of this gorilla is simply amazing. You feel as though you can see into the soul of this incredible creature.



Tango street dancers: The unique vibe of each city can be best witnessed in its locals. When Karthik Balachandran snapped an image of these tango street dancers in Buenos Aires, he captured a passionate moment in time. What could be better than dancing in the street?



Victoria Falls from a helicopter:  Sometimes, you have to get above your subject to capture it best. Breathtaking Victoria Falls has been photographed from many perspectives, but Neal Piper’s aerial view from a helicopter in Zimbabwe communicates the sheer expanse of this natural wonder.



Moonbow in Yosemite National Park: Nature’s eccentricities can go unnoticed -- unless you’re in the right place at the right time with a camera in hand. John McGraw persevered to capture this “moonbow,” a phenomenon of amazing colors visible by the light of a full moon at Yosemite on certain occasions.



Sunset in Iceland: Sunsets and sunrises may be the most oft-submitted images iReport receives, but they never fail to grab your attention. Finnur Andresson’s photo stands out because of its lovely scene: a ship silhouetted against a blazing Icelandic sunset.


With each day, iReporters prove that they can provide a passport to the world through their photographs. Whether they wait for the decisive moment or grab their camera to capture an impulsive second in time, iReport is in awe of the images they choose. I can’t wait to see what they share next.


You can share your best travel photos with iReport here.

Posted by: katie // August 5, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: How iReport is shaping the future of journalism »

Editor's Note: iReport, CNN's citizen journalism initiative, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're revisiting of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, Managing Editor Meredith Artley takes a look at some of the ways iReport is shaping the future of journalism.



Visibly reinventing how stories are told: "Open Story" was launched earlier this year and we've been testing it out to cover developing news and events that are centered around a mappable place. This is a new format and model of storytelling -- it's not just an updated article with an accompanying video or photo gallery. It's not just an interactive Google map. It's not solely done by professionals or amateurs -- an Open Story weaves together the best user generated content and the best from CNN's journalists, side by side. All of these things together create an experience larger than the sum of its parts, making a story truly participatory, truly multimedia and in a visible state of motion. It's a motorized, flying swiss army knife of journalism, or at least the beginnings of something great. The results are impressive on a broad range of stories, from the Mississippi River flooding to the Royal Wedding to SXSW.



Upping the amount of artful, global collaboration in the world: iReport's "Walk In Our Shoes" won a Webby for remixes/mashups, beating out formidable competitors who aren't even in the news category, like "The Office," because the collective work of our global audience is that good, IMHO. We asked the global iReport community to do one simple thing: Take video of a one minute walk wherever you may be. Then we edited the submissions into this artful presentation. This is true collaboration, pure creativity and you'll be seeing more projects like this from CNN.



A highly effective way to hear unique voices: For example, Johnny Colt, the tattoo-laden former bassist of the Black Crowes and a big personality in CNN's hometown of Atlanta. Johnny headed to post-quake Japan, and just look at the raw and real video that ensued. And when we asked every nation in the world to submit an iReport, the world's smallest island nation of Nauru held out. So guess who we sent to go get that final iReport?


Johnny is one of dozens of iReporters who are near and dear to our hearts. There’s also Julio Ortiz-Teissonniere, who never fails to photograph the goings-on in his Manhattan neighborhood, and Shari Atukorala, who takes part in nearly every creative iReport challenge from her Sri Lanka home, just to name a few.



Breaking news will never be the same: When and if you talk about citizen journalism, you'll likely hear sentiments like this: "Journalists can't be everywhere all the time" and "Everyone has camera in their pocket these days." These truisms keep on proving themselves, like in this first iReport filed of the 'Arab Spring' from Cairo on January 25. A few days later, we received this iReport showing tear gas being used on thousands of people streaming on the bridge into Tahrir Square. Or when a plane crashed into a federal building in Austin more than a year ago and we received several iReports from people in traffic on the highway (who should really not be driving while iReporting, but thanks for your submission). And then there's weather -- if it's hot, stormy, or buggy, we have perspectives on it like never before.



Making it personal: We have a saying around the CNN Digital newsroom that we aspire to connect the universal to the personal, and vice-versa. "Katrina, Then and Now" is one of our marquee projects of the past year that used photography and the perspective of people who lived through that disaster. We've used similar methods to connect the past to the present. And it can be done with stories that aren't inherently visual, like in the Economy Tracker, where we connected personal stories of iReporters as they fought their way through the larger tough economic climate, and in daily assignments where we request thoughts on news of the moment, like the passing of the debt ceiling bill. Few things can tell the national and global news stories better than personal experiences and perspectives.

Posted by: katie // August 4, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
iReport in real life »

One of the many ways we’re celebrating iReport's fifth birthday is through a worldwide series of meetups. The festivities got off to a delightful, and delicious, start on Tuesday in Sri Lanka. Longtime iReporter Shari Atukorala went all out and decorated her home with iReport banners, flashing lights, and a cake with iReport's original logo. She also recruited three enthusiastic new iReporters.



Her faithful dog Smokey – a bit of a legend in the iReport community – was also part of the festivities.



We also had a bit of a family reunion with original iReport producer Tyson Wheatley, who's now a Senior Editor with International in Hong Kong. Our team video chatted with Tyson and several Hong Kong iReporters during their Link meetup at a gorgeous high-rise nightclub. Our colleagues in the London bureau got to hang out with iReporters at the Tate Modern museum.


It was a big night in the U.S., too. iReporters took over Texas with simultaneous meetups in Dallas, Austin and Houston and there were also get-togethers in Denver, Colorado, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.


We are excited that so many iReporters have gotten to meet in real life, but we're nowhere near done yet. There are still dozens of meetups scheduled all over the world throughout the month of August.


If you want to attend a meetup, go to to RSVP or start a new community in your town.

Posted by:
// August 3, 2011
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Posted in: community
Top five: Squirrel-y iReports through the years »

Editor's Note: iReport, CNN's citizen journalism initiative, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics.



There's a first time for everything. First car, first electric lightbulb, first president, first time riding a bike. So it goes that there was a first iReport to be used on TV: none other than the above squirrel pancake. From these beastly beginnings emerged all the stories and opinions and breaking news that we've come to know and love.


We kicked things off late in the summer of 2006 in the middle of a sweltering heat wave, and posted an assignment asking how people were keeping cool. In the early days of CNN iReport, we were learning about building a community and experimenting to find out what kinds of stories readers wanted to share. Inspiration struck when we saw that James Christie of Kokomo, Indiana, had photographed a squirrel sprawled out on a tree branch in an effort to distribute his furry little body over as much surface area as possible. This adorable scene showed us how a single image could illustrate a story. Many, many iReports would follow it, and the rest is history.


In honor of that precipitous moment, we're taking a look at the top five squirrel iReports we've received over the years. We at Team iReport have always had a soft spot in our hearts for the nutty little creatures (and for the film "High Fidelity," which prominently features several top-five lists in its plot). Enjoy.



Cat and squirrel are friends: The lion and the lamb, or more precisely the cat and squirrel, can totally get along. This iReport from Dorwin Berrier of Sun City Center, Florida, proves it. While vacationing with family in Clear Lake, Wisconsin, he captured photos of a cat that played mother to a lost squirrel. Readers were enthralled at these images, and it turned out to be one of our most adorable and beloved iReports ever.



Bottle-fed squirrel: Bryan Wells of Old Town, Maine, captured video of his wife Pamela caring for squirrels that a friend found living inside their wall. So precious!



Squirrel O'Lantern: iReporter Jim Mathews of Arlington, Virginia, shot a photo of a squirrel chilling and eating in a pumpkin in 2008. Not a bad spot to hide.



Easter egg thief: Readers got a kick out of the squirrel who stole the eggs at an easter egg hunt in Fort Collins, Colorado, submitted by Kathy Stoltz.



Industrious and joyful squirrels: These creatures have many emotions, and Patricia Fitzgerald of Chesterfield, Missouri, showed us both their industrious, leaf-gathering side and their joyful side in 2009.


What do you think about this list? Got any thoughts or other favorites? Did you submit a squirrel photo of your own? (Does this post make you want to sing about squirrels?) Share your comments below, or visit CNN iReport to share your story

Posted by:
// August 3, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Happy birthday to us – and you! »

It's hard to believe that CNN iReport launched five years ago today, but here we are. From breaking news coverage to political commentary and personal stories, your contributions have shaped iReport into a powerful newsgathering tool that helps CNN cover the news in unique and meaningful ways.


CNN participation director and iReport ringleader Lila King said it best in her look back at iReport's history: "For nearly every major news event of the last five years -- from the 2007 shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech to today's uprisings in the Middle East -- iReporters have shared first-person views of the stories they lived through, and changed the way the rest of us understood what happened and what we should think about it. More than that, though, iReport has led the way for inventing a model for a news organization to report and tell the story of an event together with its audience."


Throughout the month of August, we'll be celebrating our fifth birthday and looking back at some of iReport's major moments in a special "top five" series on The lists, written by a variety of people in the CNN family who work with and love iReport, will range from revisiting groundbreaking moments to a look at some of our funniest submissions.


It's always nice to reflect on the past when you hit a major milestone, and we hope you'll enjoy reliving some of iReport's greatest hits along with us. Tomorrow, we'll kick things off with a list inspired by the first iReport that aired on CNN. (Hint: It's not exactly hard news, but it sure is cute.)


In the meantime, grab yourself a slice of birthday cake and enjoy thinking back on your favorite iReport memories. We wouldn’t be celebrating this day without our wonderful community. Thank you, and congrats!

Posted by: katie // August 2, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
iReport boot camp is back!  »

As some of you learned at Thursday's roundtable, iReport boot camp is back for round two!


Similar to last year, the iReport community will take part in weekly challenges and learn reporting techniques like interviewing and photography from journalists across CNN, but this year there is a special surprise, which will remain a secret until next week.


If you are interested in improving your storytelling skills by learning from some of the best in the business, tune in next Monday, August 8, to find out how you can take part in this year’s iReport boot camp.


Until then, you can check out last year’s boot camp here.

Posted by: ccostello3 // August 1, 2011
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Posted in: community, community
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