Blog : September 2011
iReporter lands lead story on  »

Holding on to hope


Congratulations to iReporter Rachel Witte for having her story published on today! Rachel took part in this year's iReport boot camp and produced a story and video about recent college graduates who try to remain hopeful despite their struggle to find employment.


For the past two months, iReport has been running the boot camp program where iReporters work with CNN experts on different aspects of the storytelling process to produce a story from start to finish. At the end of the program, the boot campers with the best stories get their own CNN byline! Rachel is the first boot camper to get her story published, but be on the lookout for many more boot camp stories over the next several weeks.


This is the first time an iReporter has gotten a byline on a story page! And as you see in the photo above, Rachel’s story was the lead story on this morning.


This is just the beginning of many more great iReport boot camp stories to come. Please continue to check the iReport boot camp page for the latest boot camp stories and updates.


And if you have a great story to tell, please share it with us!


Here’s to many more great iReport stories!

Posted by: ccostello3 // September 28, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Leaf peeping »

Colorado fall leaves


Nature photographer Greg Ochocki says the fall colors are at their peak near his home in Lake City, Colorado, so he drove up to nearby Round Top Mountain to capture this vibrant,  HDR photo  of the woods below.


It's been pretty warm there, he says, so the leaves started changing color about a week later than normal.


What's it like where you are? We want to see the autumn leaves in your area.


We haven't forgotten about you folks in the Southern Hemisphere, so be sure to send your shots of the early days of Spring.

Posted by:
// September 27, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Update: Sukhraj Beasla's story »

We've received an overwhelming response to the story about Sukhraj Beasla, an iReporter whose parents still boast that she’s got a great job at a bank even though she was laid off more than two years ago.


The story, which was featured on the homepage and viewed half-a-million times, detailed her personal sacrifices and never-ending hunt for full-time employment, all while working numerous part-time jobs.


On Saturday, Beasla's inbox was bursting with positive support and even some job offers. She was thrilled about the offers but said that a lot involved sales schemes.


"One guy even called me an idiot for turning down his offer because he and his wife are making half a million dollars with some coffee distribution company and they are their own bosses, etc.,” she wrote Monday morning.


Beasla "loved" of all the comments on the story and said she was appreciative of all the positive support. Some of the remarks were featured in the Overheard on blog post.


Some of the commenters, like wellwishes57, told Beasla that she should be proud of how she’s handled her predicament. "My hats off to Ms. Beasla, at least she is working odd jobs to make ends meet. Her parents should be proud of her."


canuck168 identified with Beasla and came from a similar background. "I am moved by your life story because I also come from a family tradition like yours. Keep your spirit up. Yes there are others in situation worse than yours. Good luck."


While Saturday brought a positive response, Beasla said Sunday brought backlash from the Indian community. Other commenters suggested she move home with her parents until she can get on her feet.


As to her parents' response, she is not sure what they think yet.


"I haven't heard from my family and I have no idea if they've seen [the story]," she said. "I don't really want to ask because I have no idea how they'll respond. I'm sure it won't be good."


But, there is some good news to report. On Monday afternoon, a director of a human resource company in California contacted CNN asking for Beasla's resume. He's looking to hire a sales person, possibly Beasla, after reading her story.


What did you think about Beasla’s story? Do you have any advice or job leads for her? Feel free to leave a comment and we will pass it along to her. And, if you’ve been impacted by the economy, we welcome you to share your story on video.

Posted by:
// September 26, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Good food from small towns »

In the past few weeks, iReport and CNNMoney asked our readers in the U.S. to submit photos and descriptions of local dishes. At the same time, everyone had the opportunity to vote for their favorite submissions and spread the word about our quest to find America's favorite meals. Over the course of four weeks, we received over seventy submissions and almost 10,000 people voted for their favorites.


We did this with CNNMoney to put together a list of the best small towns in the nation, and of course, to find the hidden gastronomical gems in America. And that we did! Just look at this diamond in the rough: Rochester, New York's garbage plates.



Sadly, Rochester's delicacy received less than 30 votes (surprising or not, you decide). On the other side of the spectrum, one town reigned supreme by popular choice: Seguin, Texas and its Tex-Mex grub. The first runner-up, chile relleno from Seguin's Taqueria El Charro Tapatio, received almost 3,500 votes. Delicioso!



Seguin, Texas is a little town in the Texas Hill Country, located some thirty miles east of San Antonio, Texas. Known for it's robust pecan industry and the fun tubing excursions in its stretch of the Guadalupe River, Seguin is also home to our poll's number-one-pick, the dish low-cal Tex-Mex from Su Casa Café, which received more than five thousand votes!



Doesn't it look tasty and healthy?


Check out the poll page over on CNNMoney and tell us what you think of the winners, the losers, and the dishes we missed.

Posted by:
// September 25, 2011
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Posted in: stories, stories
Stories from Social Media Week »

Social Media Week is wrapping up in cities around the world and we heard some interesting stories from iReporters, who attended some of  the events.


Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu told Tracy Bymoen how his department is using social media to solve crimes and build better relationships with the people his officers protect.


Paula Gibson went to a Writers Guild of America panel in Los Angeles and heard how writers for TV shows like "Scrubs," "The Vampire Diaries," and other media heavyweights use Twitter to advance their careers.


Writers' panel


Khaliph Young wasn't at Social Media week, but says he stays plugged in all day everyday as part of his job as the social media director for Detroit, Michigan.


And no matter how you feel about Facebook's new timelines and all the other new changes, Mark Schell reminds us that if you want a pizza, Mark Zuckerberg's got your back. He ordered this delicious-looking pizza last week over Facebook.


Facebook pizza


We want to thank everyone for sharing their stories from Social Media Week sharing their stories from Social Media Week and hope you'll keep letting us know what's going on in your communities.

Posted by:
// September 23, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Have you seen this kitty? »

Cat photo on beach


You may have noticed this picture of a cat popping up in iReports from all over the world. We noticed them the other day, and did some asking around and it turns out that it's a really sweet story.


It all started when an iReporter deactivated his account because of some sort of disagreement. I don't have all the details, and it's really none of my business, but the important thing is that other members of the iReport community decided to try to get him back.


The deactivated iReporter used a picture of a cat as his avatar, so they did what anyone would do if their cat went missing – they put up missing signs. It turned into a global search, with sightings reported in Paris, France, San Antonio, Texas, Salt Lake City, Utah, Malibu, California, and other places around the world.


The good news is, it worked. The iReporter is back and hopefully all is forgiven.

It's nice to see iReporters looking out for each other and this is a reminder that we should all be good to each other.


I also want to remind everyone that we're here to help if you're having a problem in the community. You can shoot me an email at any time, and I'll see what I can do.

Posted by:
// September 23, 2011
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Posted in: community
iReporters win 'Morning Express' theme song contest »

Note: Grayson Thagard, HLN TV/Web producer for "Morning Express with Robin Meade" wanted to share the exciting news here on the iReport blog.

Congratulations to Ashley Bush and Amanda Dillard! Their happy little ditty is the winner of the “Morning Express with Robin Meade” ‘Rise and Shine’ theme song contest! More about them in a minute, but first…

To all iReporters, we’d like to say thank you! Your submissions have always been a big part of “Morning Express with Robin Meade”. We’ve aired your pictures and videos from storms, riots, celebrations, and disasters, but we’d never asked you to sing. So when they told me several months ago that we were going to be asking you to get your “Glee” on, I was doubtful, to say the least. But you all stepped up to the mike in a big way!  Over 1600 individual iReports were uploaded to our contest assignment -- that’s a lot of content.  For weeks, we poured over all the entries, and got to know many of you along the way.  So many of you put huge amounts of effort into your songs; there were productions that took days (if not weeks) to complete, and we are sincerely honored that you would take the time and effort to be a part of it. Big thanks from all of us!

But at the end of the day, we could only pick one. After narrowing 1600 songs down to 100, and then down to 50, and then down to our Top 10, the final decision fell to Robin. She chose Ashley and Amanda’s song as the winner! Today, the two longtime friends are in a recording studio here in Atlanta putting the finishing touches on a new, slicked-up version of their song that you will be hearing on HLN soon!

Thanks again, iReporters! You have proven once again that your are a community of creative, driven journalists. You can shoot, write, report and break into song, just like a certain anchorwoman I know.

-Grayson Thagard
HLN TV/Web producer, “Morning Express with Robin Meade”

Posted by:
// September 22, 2011
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Posted in: community
10-year-old film gives glimpse into the week after 9/11 »


About a week after the September 11, 2001, attacks, Thomas Grasso from Merrick, New York, grabbed his Pentax 35 millimeter camera and a 24-shot roll of black-and-white film and headed to Manhattan. As a photographer, he said he had a drive to go see the devastation and document it for himself.


"I did not want to shoot it in color for some reason," Grasso said.


Grasso lost a friend, Mary Yoland Dowling, on Sept. 11. It was her last day working in the second tower. She had just gotten a new job and went in that morning to clean out her desk when the planes hit. Her body was never found.


"I felt that I was subconsciously looking for her in some way," Grasso said as he described why he decided to go to ground zero. He always hoped that she would show up in a hospital or come knocking at his door one day, he said, but that never happened.


"When I first took the pictures, I really thought I was in a war zone," he said. When he got home, he took the roll of film and threw it in his "junk drawer." He was upset because of what he saw, and he did not want to deal with the photos. For 10 years, the roll of film sat in this drawer.


As the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 neared, Grasso started to see 9/11 tributes on television. He decided that it was time to develop the photos he had stored away for so many years. Since he could not remember exactly what he shot that day in 2001, he was concerned about turning it over to a film developing lab. Even though he no longer had a darkroom, he decided to develop the photos himself.


He had several people tell him that after 10 years, the film would not develop, but Grasso decided to try it anyway. After encountering an issue with threading the reel, only several of the photos came out.


"A lot of them were ruined," Grasso said. "It was kind of heartbreaking."


Grasso wishes he could have saved the other photos but felt it was important to share the one he did save with others. He hopes that Dowling’s family will see the photos and tributes he has posted online.


“It does not make much sense to keep these things for yourself," he said. "You do them because you want to share them. You want to show them to other people.”

Posted by: ccostello3 // September 21, 2011
Posted in: stories
Midnight after DADT repeal, same-sex couple has one of the first military weddings  »


At 12:01 this morning, the U.S. military’s controversial "Don’t ask, don’t tell" policy was suspended after being on the books for more than a decade and a half. Gay and lesbian members of the military are now allowed to serve openly, and will no longer be discharged from service for their sexual orientation.


One same-sex couple in Duxbury, Vermont, wanted to be a part of this historic moment, and decided to tie the knot in an official military wedding right after the stroke of midnight. iReporter Mark Collier, a staff photographer at a local newspaper, attended the event and took these photos.


“I'm stunned that we've wasted our time as a country arguing about this,” he said about "Don’t ask, don’t tell." “Who cares who marries whom? Let people be happy.”


Navy Lt. Gary Ross and his partner, Dan Swenzy, took their vows at the Moose Meadow Lodge in a small ceremony with family and friends, presided over by Justice of the Peace Greg Trulson. Best wishes to the happy newlyweds!


If you're a same-sex military couple who just got hitched, or are planning to do so now that "Don't ask, don't tell" has ended, we want to hear from you -- share your story with iReport.

Posted by: jmsaba // September 20, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Happy Social Media Week »

Social Media Week kicked off today with events in 12 cities around the globe. CNN iReport is partnering with the global platform this year and it has gotten us thinking about the question: "How does social media affect your life"?


We put the question out on our Twitter account this morning and received some interesting responses:


User @nidhi_delhi said "social media makes me feel heard and responsible with words.”


"It's affected my life in a good way,” said @Burntoast89. It lets you communicate easier and much faster than ever before." That's a mixed blessing for @Flack4RIC, who gets "more customer interaction, less sleep."

@ca7butterfly says that she might need "social media rehab," because she can't function without checking her iPhone every five minutes.


@alxchrstnsn also stressed the importance of social media, saying that "for us youngins, every week is social media week." (Thanks for making me feel like a geezer, now get out of my yard you whippersnapper).


The week has just begun, so we’re looking for more stories from around the world. Let us know how social media affects you in a short video.



If you're in Beirut, Berlin, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Glasgow, Los Angeles, Milan, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, or Vancouver, you might want to check out some of the Social Media Week events. You can also watch a lot of the events online. Let us know if you see something interesting.

Posted by:
// September 19, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Attention all iRe-paw-ters »

CNN producers speak at plenty of industry conferences, from SXSW to ONA. But I'm presenting at a conference in Atlanta this month that will definitely be a first for me, and maybe even for CNN: My audience won't be solely human.


Nope, it's not a Trekkie convention, it's BarkWorld! Pet bloggers, writers and social media aficionados -- and their animal companions -- will gather in Atlanta from September 29 to October 1. I'll be introducing them to the wonderful world of iReport and explaining how they can use their expertise and love of animals to report on bona fide news (and I swear that's not a pun on "bone" or "Fido." Really, I do.)


So if you're an animal lover in Atlanta, consider joining me at  BarkWorld. It would be lovely to see a few friendly iReport faces in the  crowd! And if you're not in the ATL, never fear: there are plenty of  adorable animals on iReport for you to peruse. May I direct you to my  blog post of the cutest iReports ever? (I can't help but hypothesize that post may be the reason I was asked to speak at BarkWorld in the first place.)


I'm super-excited to meet all the dogs and cats who attend (yes, they're invited) and their human friends, and to turn them all into iReporters. Now I just have to decide whether to bring my own computer-savvy kitty, Ella.

Posted by:
// September 15, 2011
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Posted in: community
Northern Lights paint Iceland sky »

The Northern Lights are "one of Iceland's jewels," wrote Finnur Andrésson.


And indeed, the awe-inspiring phenomenon does seem to turn the sky into a gem, making for some pretty spectacular photos.


Andrésson shot the photo above on the night of September 11 in Akranes, Iceland. In the foreground is a ship, Höfrungur (meaning dolphin) that was built in 1955 and is no longer in use. The dramatic green color of the Aurora borealis combined with the silhouette of the ship makes for a striking, almost haunting image.


Icelanders are lucky in that it's not uncommon to see the Northern Lights where they live. Thorir Bjorgvinsson shot this photo of the Akranes lighthouse on the same night:



The Northern Lights are only one of Iceland's many natural and man-made treasures, as we learned from last week's Destination Adventure story on the small nation. And if these photos pique your interest, check out our Iceland travel tips - we guarantee you'll be tempted to book tickets immediately.


Check out our Destination Adventure landing page for more info on Iceland and other wonderful travel destinations. We'd love to see your photos from Costa Rica, Nepal or any of our thirteen locations!

Posted by:
// September 14, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Debate winner? iReporters can’t agree »

Ron Paul, Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann? iReporters were all over the map when it came to deciding who they thought won CNN’s Tea Party Debate on Monday night.


18-year-old Anthony Gober from Noblesville, Indiana, thought Rep. Ron Paul won the debate because of his "attitude, unwavering support of the Constitution, and advocating for limited government. He has a huge grassroots support and it keeps growing.”



But for Nicholas Pegues of Memphis, Tennessee, the spotlight was on Rep. Michele Bachmann. “She speaks from her heart and this is what America needs as a leader,” he said of the Minnesota congresswoman.


Native Texan Egberto Willies, a registered Democrat, called Gov. Rick Perry the “outright” winner of the debate. He thinks former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney missed a golden opportunity to critique Perry’s stance on health care and the HPV vaccines. Despite it all, Willies thinks Perry’s charm and “the way he talks to people” will ultimately win him the GOP candidacy.



The Bachmann/Perry dynamic most stood out to Caleb Graves of Washington during the debate. He said he was surprised to see Perry crumble after candidates, like Bachmann, questioned him on some of the decisions he’s made as the governor of Texas.


Graves said Perry’s weak answers might pave the way for Romney to step up as the GOP frontrunner.


"I think Romney will re-arise as the likely nominee," he said. "I think it will be a very tight race between Obama and Romney, and a lot of it may have to do with who Romney - and Obama for that matter - picks as his running mate."


And for Valerie Lynne Nicholson of Greensboro, North Carolina, she heard a lot of loud voices at the debate, but says the more outspoken individuals weren’t necessarily the smarter nominees. She didn’t see a true winner.


Nicholson called out Bachmann for good rhetoric, but not her solutions. She thought Perry was handsome but she urged people to look at his record. Romney made some good points, but she felt he was weak in immigration and jobs. “I would really like to see the stage set without Romney and Perry center stage. Let's see Santorum and Huntsman or Cain and Gingrich take center stage,” she said.


What did you think of the Tea Party debate? Who do you think was the winner? Leave a comment or upload a video. We’d like to keep this political conversation going.

Posted by:
// September 13, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Ten years later, iReporter shares video from ground zero »

On September 11, 2001, Lou Angeli had been a volunteer firefighter/EMT. At the time, he was also working on a documentary about disasters and major emergencies. His battalion chief contacted him that morning because of a fire in the South tower of the World Trade Center. Little did Angeli know at the time exactly what was happening that day until he was well on his way to Manhattan.

"Although we had no heavy equipment, we began to dig through layers of concrete, wall board, frames and twisted steel -- with our hands. I worked on this and similar bucket brigades during my sixteen days at ground zero."

He will never forget what he saw at the site of the World Trade Center: "I recall a group of 12-15 firefighters who found the body of a colleague buried under about 10 feet of debris. He had been wearing his fire turnout gear, which kept his body relatively intact. I shot from a distance but I could clearly see the look of emptiness in their faces. It was a very solemn event with a fire chaplain saying last rites before the body was placed in a black bag and driven [...] to the temporary morgue."

Ten years later, Angeli shared video for the first time of what he saw that day with CNN iReport (the produced documentary was never released). He spoke to CNN’s Michael Holmes on Thursday about his memories of that day.

Angeli is just one of dozens of iReporters around the world who have shared their memories from 9/11. If you would like to share your story, click here to add to our assignment.

Posted by:
// September 9, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Follow-up: Nebraska floodwaters receding, risks remain »


The Missouri River has been receding for about two weeks in South Sioux City, Nebraska, giving residents a chance to start cleaning up areas that have been flooded since June.


"Everything's covered in deep, thick brown mud," iReporter Jim Headley told CNN. Headley is the editor of the Dakota County Star newspaper and has spent a lot of time in the flooded areas talking to people fighting to save their homes.


A nurse at the Nebraska Regional Poison Center  recently told Headley that the muck isn't just dirty, it's also loaded with bacteria, chemicals and every other gross thing that washed into the river.  There's also a lot of mold, which Headley said is bad for his asthma and made him pretty sick.


Workers have been using heavy equipment to scoop up the soggy remains of sandbags and have started cutting down hundreds of dying trees. Headley said there also are a lot of city buildings near the river that will need to be cleaned up.


We want to keep telling this important story and we hope you'll help us. If your area was flooded over the summer, please share your photos and videos and let us know how you're doing.

Posted by:
// September 8, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Ten years later: 9/11 connections »


A few months ago, we put a simple call to action out to iReporters: What’s your 9/11 story? Responses soon began to pour in and, among them, connections and themes began to emerge.


There were iReporters who were in high school and decided to pursue a military career that day; survivors who were working in the World Trade Center that morning; and Muslim-Americans who battled with identity issues as they experienced a heightened sense of attention to their religion and ethnicity.


We decided to pair up 10 iReporters who shared 9/11 connections and record them as they spoke about that day and how it affected their lives. The conversations that resulted were emotional, powerful and surprising.


But perhaps the best part about collecting so many stories is having the opportunity to share them with CNN’s audience. The 10-year anniversary of September 11, 2001, is a big story to cover, but through your memories and observations, we are able to tell a complete story of how that day forever changed ourselves and the world we live in.


In addition to the five conversations, our interactive showcases dozens of iReporters’ 9/11 stories in a scroll that keeps growing as more are added to the mix.


Since we published the interactive on Tuesday, we have received nearly 80 responses from iReporters around the world who were inspired to share their 9/11 stories as well. Among the many powerful submissions is the above photo from iReporter Jon Hollender, who said he was compelled to photograph the sunrise over Manhattan on the morning of September 12, 2001. “I was trying to find something positive that morning,” he said.


“'I think the sun rising was a big thing too because it was like, 'Wow, we got through that day.’''


If you have a 9/11 story to share, please upload it here. And be sure to explore our interactive to discover how other iReporters were impacted by that fateful day.

Posted by: katie // September 7, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Dragon*Con 2011: Like a 'four-day Halloween party' »

If you've been keeping an eye on the newly-minted Geek Out! blog, you'll know that an annual Atlanta tradition went down this past weekend: Dragon*Con! This year's convention (also the festival's twenty-fifth anniversary), was a celebration of all things geeky, from sci-fi to anime to videogames to, well, just about every subgenre imaginable. Naturally, iReporters were on the scene to document the fun.



Matthew Druin snapped some excellent candid shots of the costumed participants and onlookers at the Dragon*Con parade. "This was my first year attending Dragon*Con," he said. "Apparently I picked a good year to start. I only attended the parade, but I had a lot of fun."



iReporter Adriana Maxwell was also at the parade, and captured this video of some of the dazzling and colorful costumes on display. "I brought the kids with me this time," she said. "It was interesting watching them marvel at life-size Star Wars Stormtroopers."



And as longtime Dragon*Con attendees know, the whole weekend often ends up feeling like one big, happy party. "This was my first year ever attending, I had a really good time meeting people and talking about their costumes," Chris Janes said. "It's a sight to see, if you really enjoy dressing up for Halloween, then Dragon*Con is something you should try. It's a four-day Halloween party."


Take a look at our Dragon*Con assignment to see what else iReporters submitted. And if you were there, share your photos and videos with iReport!

Posted by: jmsaba // September 5, 2011
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Posted in: stories
An affair to remember: Our Atlanta birthday meetup »


We had the loveliest time at our fifth birthday party/iReport meetup last night!


CNNers and iReporters came together at the gorgeous Whitespace gallery, an indoor/outdoor space that was perfect for facilitating conversation and showing off our favorite iReport images. There was great food and drinks, fun conversation, and plenty of awkward/wonderful meetings among people who talk all the time online but were seeing each other in real life for the first time.


Drinks and chatting on the patio. That's Lila, our fearless leader, in the red iReport t-shirt.


iReporters greeted us and each other like old friends. Here, Lulis Leal and Adriana Maxwell share an enthusiastic hug.


We decorated by showing off some of our favorite iReport photos of all time. This is just a fraction of 'em.


It was wonderful to meet so many iReport community members!


These kids are going to be the leaders of CNN iReport someday. That's Trevor Dougherty and James Brierton, both college students and star iReporters, meeting in person for the first time. As our intern in 2008, James vetted Trevor's first iReport!


It's been a wonderful birthday month. Thank you, iReporters in Atlanta and around the world, for helping us celebrate!

Posted by:
// September 2, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Tonight's the night! Come meet us »


If you're in Atlanta, come to our CNN iReport birthday meetup and party tonight! We've been jealously watching all the cool iReport meetups around the world, and now it's finally our turn.


We'll be hanging out at Whitespace gallery in Atlanta's historic Inman Park neighborhood tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Come on by to meet the CNN iReport team, some iReport enthusiasts from CNN and, of course, lots of local iReporters. We'll provide drinks, and word on the street is that one of Atlanta's fab local food trucks will be on-site if you want something to nibble.


Hope to see you there! If you think you can make it, we'd love for you to RSVP by going to our meetup page.

Posted by:
// September 1, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
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