Wednesday, August 24, 2011
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.

August 24, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

Great choices, CNN iReport team! I'm sure it was a difficult task to pick just five stories out of the countless amazing reporting that has come out of iReport. Congratulations to all the iReporters chosen. :)

August 24, 2011
Click to view jmsaba's profile

Thanks mcintron, we're glad you enjoyed the roundup. Don't thank us too much though, the real kudos and applause belong to you: iReport's amazing community of citizen-journalists! We wouldn't be what we are now without you.


And believe you me, it was no mean feat trying to pick the top five out of all the excellent pieces of original reporting that have landed on iReport over the past half-decade.

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