Blog : October 2011
7 billion people = tons, tons of creativity »

 

People always say there are 6 billion people on earth, but now they're going to have to start saying 7 billion instead. The United Nations calculates that we're hitting that number as of today, October 31, 2011.

 

A few days ago, we sat around a table thinking to ourselves, "This is a big deal! iReport should do something!" Then we decided to put the challenge out to you, the community, to research some statistics and put together an iReport to help explain how big 7 billion really is.

 

Our usual assignments ask you to take a picture or shoot some footage or respond to some prompt. But, this time we wanted people to take this abstract, huge number and make it something that you can more easily perceive and grasp. We asked you to use some brainpower, and you delivered! You got super creative, and you taught us a few things by showing and telling at the same time.

 

There were puppets, grains of rice and glasses of water. There was even a PowerPoint presentation. And there was even some mouth-moving and walk-taking.

 

Koko the Monkey and Cocky the Rooster taught us that it would take 111 years to count to 7 billion at a rate of two counts per second. Andy Clinton of Montgomery, Alabama, was the mastermind of that project.

 

 

We heard from Wendy Olt of Chicago, Illinois, who is a 7th grade teacher (bless her) and coincidentally had a class lesson about large numbers, so she went with 7 billion since it was in the news. Her husband tipped her off to our CNN iReport assignment and she was able to send some videos from the students along.

 

 

And then we had some fun calculations. Veronica Pantaleon Mendoza of Manila, Philippines, told the story in terms of grains of rice, and Jerry Gonzales of New Plymouth, New Zealand, calculated the number of glasses of water consumed based on the usually recommended eight glasses per day.

 

 

This project forced us to brush up on our potentially rusty mathematical skills, and we applaud you for that. You really brought some creativity to the table.

 

Did you enjoy this project, and do you want to do more like these? What effect do you think all this population is going to have? Let us know what we can do to get the creative juices flowing even more freely here at CNN iReport.

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nsaidi
// October 31, 2011
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Posted in: community, stories
Documenting a movement: iReport photographers capture Occupy »

iReporter Sarah Beth Boynton has shot a whole portfolio of Occupy Salt Lake City images. She's not part of the Occupy movement, but she thought its story deserved to be told.

 

"I wanted Occupy Salt Lake City to have a chance to show what they were doing," she said. "And when I saw that there wasn't much on the news in the beginning, iReport gave me a chance to put Salt Lake's perspective out there."

 

Many other photographers felt the same way. That's what led to CNN's Meet the 99% project, which showcases 10 photographers' portraits of Occupiers around the world to share the goals and ideals of the movement.

 

Kevin Smith, a construction project manager who's been out of work for three years, started off just documenting the protests - he's working to become a full-time photographer. But as he learned more, he started to get involved.

 

"It's a wide selection of people, all races and ages, and they're all dead serious about it," said Smith of the Occupy Chapel Hill, Occupy Greensboro and Occupy Raleigh protests in North Carolina. "And quite a few of the people I've talked to have been employed, and they just feel like the middle class is going away. That's been the one thing that's really hit home with me in North Carolina."

 

Smith and other photographers involved say the protesters welcomed their attention, and he emphasizes that they seemed passionate about making their messages known rather than simply getting on camera:

 

"I got the sense that they were very serious about it. They weren't out to get in the media," he said. "They were just saying, here I am, because this is serious. Most of them were looking square in the camera, no smile, just like, we gotta change."

 

The photographers capturing the movement feel like they've gotten something back from it, too.

 

"It was a total education, a little bit of government education, geographical education, and humanitarian education," said Boynton, who plans to continue documenting the protests in Salt Lake City.

 

And, of course, it's a rare opportunity for amateur and aspiring photographers and journalists to cover a major breaking news story in their own hometowns.

 

"This is great because I always wished I could somehow fly to Egypt to have photographed that [revolution]," said Jose Armenteros, who documented the Occupy Seattle movement. "So it's nice to have something big happening here that is very accessible."

 

Are you capturing or participating in the Occupy movement? We'd love to have you join our photography project.

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rachel8
// October 27, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Photo Club is back! »

To all the iReport photographers out there, whether you’re an aspiring shutterbug or a professional shooter, we’re pleased to say we have an assignment especially for you!

 

For those of you who remember iReport Photo Club from 2009-2010, we’ve reintroduced a specific place for you to upload powerful photo essays. Telling a story in photographs is the main goal, so we encourage you to stretch your minds and convey storylines via series of photos, as opposed to single images.

 

To get inspired, check out this oldie but goodie from Shah Sazzad, a photographer from Dhaka, Bangladesh, who spent several months capturing reflections in water. He strived to show reflections of truth. Sazzad explained that reflections in the water, much like those in a mirror, don’t lie.

 

We plan to showcase some of the best photo stories. Look out for a new photography feature coming out on CNN.com next week!

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zdan
// October 26, 2011
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How much is 7 billion? »

 

According the United Nations Population Division, the world population will reach 7 billion on October 31. The group estimates that the human population rose from 300 million at the start of the common era (0 AD), to one billion in 1802. Then, with the industrial revolution and advances in medicine, the population grew exponentially into what it is today.

 

We know that 7 billion is a large number, but just how large is it? Could we understand it by counting? Jeremy Harper, of Birmingham, Alabama, earned a Guinness World Record by counting to one million in 2007. He counted every day, twelve to fourteen hours a day, for three months to achieve that number. At that pace, it would take 1,750 years to reach 7 billion.

 

While counting to 7 billion isn't possible, people have traditionally used comparisons and visual aids to help them understand the magnitude of large numbers.

 

Last Friday we opened the "How much is 7 billion?" assignment to inspire iReport's creative contributors to show us how they relate to the number. Here's a couple of the coolest iReports we've received so far:

 

 

iReporter Jerry Gonzales, from New Plymouth, New Zealand, used glasses of water to demontrate the number.

 

"In a year, we consume about 2,920 glasses of water [for optimal health]," Gonzales said. "Therefore, we need to live about 2.4 million years to consume 7 billion glasses of water."

 

 

Veronica Pantaleon Mendoza used grains of rice to illustrate the number. She says that 189,445 kilograms (208 tons) of rice would account for 7 billion grains.

 

But there's more to the analogy she used. "I decided to represent the population with rice because like so many individuals, in different parts of the world, bits of it cascade in transit and are ignored (like the fallen and impoverished), sacks hoarded then sold (slavery) and spoonfuls thrown away from kitchens to bins (abuse)," she explains.

 

What visual aids would you use? What comparisons make sense to you? We're leaving the assignment open until 10:00 a.m. ET, on Thursday, October 27, so you still have a chance to make your own video. Next week we'll feature the most compelling videos on CNN.com.

 

Help us count to 7 billion!

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elchueco
// October 25, 2011
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Five cool tidbits from Destination Adventure »

 

Now that the 13-week Destination Adventure special has come to a close, it's time to wrap things up. Short of throwing some kind of tickertape parade or an international potluck for the whole community (although we're totally in support of this idea), we thought it would be fun to reflect on a few interesting things we came across. You can't eat this post, but hopefully you'll enjoy the stories and maybe even learn a thing or two.

 

1. You can go surfing in Munich, Germany. Viola Hsueh of Taipei, Taiwan, shared some awesome photos of wetsuited people catching a river wave right in town. There is more to Munich than beer and Oktoberfest, and you can see it by sun or snow. Still, that's not going to stop us from trying some of that tasty German brew.

 

2. Yes, there are restaurants and even a foodie scene in the Galapagos Islands. And people do live there. iReporter Janet Manosalvas shared photos of her home, and iReporters gave us tips on where to go to eat. The main drag on Santa Cruz island is named after Charles Darwin and features lots of upscale eateries. Many iReporters suggested hitting up the street food vendors just a few blocks from there.

 

3. If you're on a safari in Kenya's Masai Mara, be prepared for close animal encounters. Like in Brandon Harris' video of cheetahs chilling out on the hood of the jeep in which he was riding. But don't be alarmed. They're just trying to get warm. You won't have that issue if you travel by balloon instead. And if you happen to be wandering around South Africa, beware of penguin attacks.

 

4. Seaweed is a big deal, and the portion of Argentina that is part of the Patagonia region is home to one of the best-known harvesting hot spots in the world. (And you thought Patagonia was just a rugged outdoor clothing brand?) iReporter Jane Teas of Columbia, South Carolina, went to Argentina specifically for this seaweed and saw some penguins there as well.

 

5. The horses in Iceland are simply gorgeous. Mark Bergner of Chicago, Illinois, was just one of many iReporters to show us these beautiful animals. (Unrelated: Those folks have pretty strong stomachs, as Halldor Sigurdsson of Reykjavik showed us.)

 

Thanks for participating in these assignments, and for reading and commenting on these stories. We look forward to even more adventures in the future. If you've got travel photos and stories of your own to share, we encourage you to submit to our travel photo of the day assignment. What are your favorite adventure destinations? Be sure to comment below.

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nsaidi
// October 25, 2011
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iReport roundtable canceled  »

This week's iReport roundtable is cancelled because the team is busy covering the breaking news out of Libya. We'll be back next Thursday to talk about what's going on in the community.

 

If you have any questions or concerns before then, feel free to drop me a private message or email me at david.williams@cnn.com.

 

We'll talk with you next week.

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davidw
// October 20, 2011
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iReporters put their commutes on video »

"Beautiful and fast!" That was the term Paula Lauren Gibson used to describe her commute after watching the video she made with a dash cam in her car for iReport’s Cultural Census.

 

When we simply asked iReporters to tell us how they get around, some of them, like Gibson, went the extra mile.

 

Gibson ended up putting together a video of a drive to her father's house, as a series of quick images (with a few breaks in between) going from urban Los Angeles, California via the 10 freeway, then moving on to the Pacific Coast Highway.

 

"You get ocean views along with views of the Santa Monica mountains."

 

As she takes a winding road through the canyon, she gets a look at “stunning cliff vistas."

 

Despite improvements in public transportation there, she said she still prefers taking her car to get to where she needs to go, especially because of the sights.

 

At the same time, she said, “Driving freeways can be tedious. I have taken historic route 66 over the freeway to go to the Grand Canyon. When I drive to San Francisco, I always take the longer PCH coast route and sometimes take the scenic by pass by Carmel, too, which makes the trip even longer.

"I think I always prefer the road less traveled!"


According to census statistics from 2005, we spend about 100 hours a year on average, commuting to work.  So, in order to get a look at one particularly long commute in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Doug Simonton shot a time lapse: “I shot similar video during a previous trip to Iceland by simply holding the camera out the window.”


This time he put the camera on a small hand-held mount and drove off. (He also confessed to running two red lights, which we definitely don’t recommend).



Colin Lord also shot a time-lapse of his (much shorter) 15-minute commute to Blacksburg, Virginia. “I lived in Atlanta before living up here so it was quite a culture shock to go from the downtown connector to driving by cows and farmland on Route 460.”



And then, there’s always good old-fashioned walking, which William Harpole demonstrated in the small town of Maben, Mississippi.


“All the people in my town know each other, and we do all walk alot and have a nice walking track at our town park,” he said. “Since the tornado we had in April, we had people helping each other with the clearing of the rubbish of trees and limbs and parts of houses, and not sitting and waiting for somebody else to do it.”



As we've seen, commuting can be a fact of life taken for granted every day, but it can also be a thing of beauty. And it doesn't hurt to stop and smell the roses once in a while.


As Gibson put it, "You haven't lived until you have pulled over on PCH, and stood by the cliffs in Big Sur listening to the seals barking way down below."


We hope these videos have inspired you, and we encourage you to show us your commute, too. As always, remember to be careful while documenting your travel. Share still images or footage you've captured of the way you get around town.

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hhanks
// October 20, 2011
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Occupy goes global, in pictures »

What began as a series of demonstrations in New York criticizing corporate greed has now grown into organized protests railing against a vast array of topics throughout the world.

 

In recent days, we’ve spotted some especially compelling photographs that tell the story and capture the intensity of this grassroots movement that has captivated the world.

 

iReporter Barb Mayer's photograph of an Occupy protest in Rome, Italy on Saturday captures the violence that resulted in a police intervention with water cannons and tear gas. Protesters broke windows with rocks, and succeeded in setting a car on fire, as pictured above.

 

 

Also on Saturday, iReporter Hanna Brenner took this picture of the Occupy protest she stumbled upon in Salamanca, Spain after watching a dance performance. She was awestruck by the energy and passion of the protesters and how peaceful and organized the protest was.

 

 

Meanwhile, 3,000 protesters gathered peacefully in Copenhagen, Denmark at City Hall Square. iReporter Mikkel Wiese captured this moment and said he sympathized with "the peacefully-minded protesters and their concern for the poor."

 

 

Occupy Vancouver protesters championed their status as the ninety-nine percent and voiced their frustrations with the corruption and what they see as an unfair distribution of power within their society. iReporter Amanda Calliou snapped this photo of one man amidst a crowd of protesters.

 

Check out how the Occupy Wall Street protests have unfolded over the past month in iReport's Open Story, a collaborative effort of CNN staffers and iReporters telling the story side by side. And, if you’ve been to an Occupy protest anywhere in the world, feel free to share your story and images.

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jne2013
// October 18, 2011
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Why do Hajj? iReporter explains »

In a few weeks, some 3 million Muslims will arrive in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the annual five-day Hajj pilgrimage. Brown University Muslim chaplain Robert David Coolidge is performing Hajj for the second time and plans to document the trip with iReport.

 

For the uninitiated among us, Coolidge and Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, offer a primer:

 

1. Why do Hajj?

 

According to Islam, every Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage at least once if they are healthy and can afford to. Some people work their whole lives to pay for the trip. Others return many times for spiritual enlightenment and forgiveness, Coolidge says.

 

“There’s the belief that one’s prayers in the mosque in Mecca are multiplied many, many times,” Coolidge says.

 

The Saudi government sets quotas for each country to control the crowds. Because Coolidge’s name isn’t “recognizably Muslim,” he had to get written proof of his faith from a local religious leader.

 

2. Where does everyone stay?

 

The  Saudi government puts up thousands of large white tents that each house  about 100 people. Other tents are designated for toilets and showers.  Most people travel with a group that takes care of all the details,  including meals, Awad says. Participants typically stay in hotels before  and after the Hajj to visit sites in Mecca and the city of Medina.

 

3. What do you do during Hajj?

 

Think of it as a “spiritual boot camp,” says Coolidge. Participants perform a series of religious tasks, visit holy sites, engage in intense prayer and attend lectures.

 

It’s also a chance to network with Muslims from all over the world, Awad says.

 

“If you’re coming from the U.S. your tent might be someone from Ghana. The next tent next to you may be from Southeast Asia,” Awad says. “That is a huge opportunity for people to mingle and know about each other.”

 

 

4. What happens after Muslims perform Hajj?

 

Those who make the pilgrimage often return “a different person,” Awad says. “You come back born again, washed of your sins. You come back as a new person, a more humble person, a person who wants to help other people and be compassionate and do the right thing.”

 

Besides coming back more religiously observant, Muslims who undertake the hajj return to their home countries with more positive views toward other cultures, and greater tolerance of non-Muslims, a 2008 study of Pakistani pilgrims suggested.

 

5. This will be the first Hajj since the Arab Spring revolutions. Could the event build solidarity among Muslims fighting governments in their home countries?

 

It’s possible, but not likely, Coolidge and Awad say. The revolutions will no doubt be a topic of conversation, and people may return from their spiritual journeys ready to “stand up for justice,” Awad says. But the Hajj tends to be an apolitical event.

 

“It has always been conveyed that this is a time and a place when the various Muslim communities should set aside their political differences or political concerns and focus on the spiritual unity of the Muslim community, and the fact that everybody is there in the same place to do the Hajj together,” Coolidge says. “It’s possible that something could be different this time around, but I don’t think so.”

 

Are you planning to make the holy pilgrimage? CNN iReport is looking for travelers who are interested in documenting their journey for CNN. In a video of 2 minutes or less, tell us who you are, where you live and why you’re embarking on this journey of a lifetime.

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dsashin
// October 17, 2011
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iReporters cut loose! »

Footloose, that is.

 

The remake of the classic Kevin Bacon film jives its way into theaters today, and we wanted to celebrate as only iReport can.

 

We  dug into our supply of stock music to find something dance-worthy and  asked you to turn the camera on yourselves workin' it out and breakin'  it down. Here are some highlights from the brave iReporters who danced like nobody was watching:

We think you'll all agree with us that the star performer here is Melissa Fazli's  5-year-old son, Shayan, who provides the grand finale in the video  above. That kid has charisma and crazy moves to boot! See the rest of  his performance here. And thanks to all the other fabulous iReporters who were up to the challenge: Bernardus Stroomer, Tracy Tucholski and Jenny Wasinski, John Zahorcak and his coworkers, Veronica Mendoza and her fellow Filipino iReporters, Funda Ray, Shari Atukorala, Markku Rainer Peltonen, and Kathi Cordsen.

 

Oh, and of course, the iReport team here at CNN wasn't off the hook. We made fools of ourselves here in the studio, too, just for you guys:

Happy dancing!

Posted by: jmsaba // October 14, 2011
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'Proudly remembering, bravely moving forward' »

Editor’s Note: We learned about Sgt. Jeffrey Reed’s story through Home and Away, an ongoing initiative to honor the men and women worldwide who died while serving in the wars of Iraq or Afghanistan. You can learn more about the project here.

 

Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander Reed was more than just a courageous, esteemed, fiercely loyal soldier of the United States Army—he was also a kind-hearted and thoughtful young man, which is what his older sister, Cynthia Reed, hopes he is remembered as.

 

In Iraq, Jeffery served as a military policeman, and during his second deployment he trained Iraqi police. He hoped to become a civilian officer after serving in the Army.

 

But on March 2, 2009, Jeffery was fatally wounded when a grenade struck his vehicle in Taji, Iraq. He was 23. Recently, his sister posted a Home and Away tribute to his Home and Away page. “I want people to know that his life was cut tragically short but that he never lived with any regrets and he was so proud to serve his country,” Cynthia wrote in her Home and Away tribute to her brother. During his time overseas, Reed was awarded a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal posthumously.

 

Jeffrey was one of those initially introverted people during a first encounter, but after getting to know him better, “he quickly opened up and was definitely the life of the party.” his sister said. “He was an incredibly fun person.”

 

Cynthia fondly remembers her brother as a “die-hard sports fan”. Before Jeffrey’s second deployment, their family traveled to Philadelphia to attend a Flyers game, his favorite sports team. “After the Flyers won, Jeff went down to the ice to high five some of the players. We always joked he pushed multiple children out of the way to get the opportunity.”

 

While in Iraq, he would play makeshift soccer games with Iraqi children by kicking cans and rocks around because they had no soccer balls. She recalls his requests of family members back home to send him soccer balls that he could pass out to the children so they could play a real game.

 

To honor Jeff’s memory and continue his passion for helping others, his family founded the Jeffrey A. Reed memorial fund, which focuses on supporting wounded warriors and veterans.

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jne2013
// October 13, 2011
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iReport roundtable: Thursday at 2 p.m. ET »

The CNN iReport roundtable kicks off today at 2 p.m. ET and we hope you'll join us. We're looking forward to talking to everyone about what's going on in the iReport community. If you've got any questions, comments or concerns, we'd love to hear them.

 

Comments will open at 2 p.m. ET

 

Talk to you then.

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davidw
// October 13, 2011
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iReporters define Occupy Wall Street movement »

UPDATE: Since this article was published we've received more than 1000 responses to our survey. We hope we can delve again into the numbers and investigate trends such as how income level, age and geography play into the grievances of those who identify with this movement. Stay tuned.

 

iReport's Occupy Wall Street assignment has received more than 800 submissions from iReporters in 33 different cities in the United States. From looking at all those photos and videos, we've learned just how diverse the demands and grievances of protesters are. We've seen everything from anger over tax breaks for the wealthy, to demands like ending the wars and effecting campaign finance reform.

 

Yet by looking at the comments on iReports and articles on CNN.com, we see that many of our readers still don't know who the protesters are, or what they seek to achieve. Maybe if the self-appointed "99%" came up with a list of demands, it would help focus and clarify the movement.

 

But the protesters haven't yet, and might not for a while.

 

Yesterday, CNNMoney's Julianne Pepitone pointed out that Occupy Wall Street isn't about having a list of demands. Even the administrators of the more-or-less-official Occupy Wall Street website had to clarify that (at least currently) "There is NO official list of demands," after a user-submitted list that appeared on their forums got some negative attention.

 

So how do we satisfy CNN commenters' questions?

 

At CNN iReport, we're interested in telling stories as they're seen from the eyes of many. We decided to seek out the common themes in protests from different parts of the country by asking one question to iReporters supportive of the movement: "What are you protesting?"

 

Here's what we found out:

 

 

Out of the 75 responses to our survey, 46 percent cited grievances against corruption in the U.S. government -- a recurring theme that was more than twice as popular as any other.

 

Themes aligned with traditional liberal values such as tax breaks for the wealthy (15%) and growing economic disparity (13%) were also brought up by a significant percentage of respondents. Beyond those, respondents also pointed to more specific themes such as healthcare reform (12%), campaign finance reform (11%), and the outsourcing of American jobs to overseas labor markets (11%).

 

The most common emotion associated with these protests by respondents was "anger."

 

Although our non-scientific survey points to some interesting statistics, this growing protest movement continues to define itself as undefined. Its only goal seems to be increasing its traction among those dissatisfied with government corruption and the greed of the "1%."

 

Want to chime in? Take the survey!

 

As we wait for the demands of the protesters to solidify, we invite you to follow this ever-evolving movement through iReport's Open Story, and to contribute to our assignment if you are witness to any of its incarnations anywhere in the U.S.

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elchueco
// October 13, 2011
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Roundtable reminder: Thursday at 2 p.m. ET »

Please join us here in the blog on Thursday, October 13, for the CNN iReport roundtable.

 

This is a great chance to meet other iReporters and talk with the staff about anything that's going on in the community.

If you've got questions, comments or ideas you want to kick around, we'd love to talk with you.

 

We'll see you tomorrow.

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davidw
// October 12, 2011
 1 comments
Posted in: community
Protesters = Hippies? Many iReporters disagree »

 

As the Occupy Wall Street protests have spread to dozens of cities across the country, some iReporters have voiced their opinions about the misleading representation of who the protesters really are.

 

One of the biggest trends we’ve seen on iReport is the diversity of the protesters. They’ve been stereotyped as young and rebellious, according to many iReporters. But, we’ve seen submissions from all walks of life.

 

iReporter Shin Kurokawa, who was observing the protests, commented on the heterogeneity of the Occupy Boston crowd: “Early on, the media reported Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy groups as being a ‘bunch of college-aged hippies’. This is not the case,” he said. “There were people of all ages, colors, faiths, and political affiliations.”

 

 

And at the Zuccotti Park protests in New York City, iReporter Linda DiCosmo said what caught her attention was the diversity she saw through her camera lens. “I saw middle class people, retirees, young people, black, white, Asian, hipsters, folk artists […] and all of a sudden I was photographing America, with all its respect for diversity,” she said.

 

In addition, the reasons for protesting were just as diverse as the protesters themselves. People created signs and shouted their stance on topics ranging from corporate greed, better jobs, and higher wages to ending war and frustrations within Wall Street.

 

Out of the thousands at an Occupy New York protest on October 5, iReporter Adalberto Ortiz noticed that “the protesters […] were students, war veterans, black bloc anarchists, hippies, punks, professionals, feminists…It was a mix representing different subcultures and political groups.” Other iReporters like Lauren Thurmond in Baltimore and Larry Blucher in New York also offered their personal accounts of the diversity at the protests within their iReports.

 

 

If you have attended or participated in an Occupy protest and would like to share your experience, please upload it to our Open Story.

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jne2013
// October 11, 2011
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Rejection inspires girl to make a difference »

Nancy Newton with her golden retriever Remington and 12-year-old Alexandra Cockett surprise Elaine Ault with a pet therapy visit at Palm Valley Rehabilitation and Care Center.

 

Editor's note: Nancy Newton participated in iReport boot camp, a seven-week series where CNN journalists offered tips to iReporters on covering a story from start to finish. This is her final product. Newton’s story is one of several standout submissions to be published on CNN.com.

 

Sometimes the greatest ideas arise out of rejection. At least that’s what happened to 12-year-old Alexandra Cockett of Phoenix, Arizona.

 

Determined to make a difference in her community, Cockett made a commitment to earn the Girl Scout Silver Award this year. It’s the highest honor a Girl Scout Cadette can earn and gives her a chance to demonstrate leadership skills in an organized, dedicated way.

 

Nearly one year ago, the aspiring veterinarian asked to shadow me and my pet therapy dog, Remington, as a way to give back to her community while enjoying the company of animals.

 

I’ve been volunteering in this capacity for nearly six years with two golden retrievers at Palm Valley Rehabilitation and Care Center in Goodyear, Arizona, and Huger Mercy Living Center in Glendale, Arizona.

 

Every other Sunday, Cockett would volunteer with Remington and me. When she would visit with patients, their faces would light up and for a brief moment it would seem that they forget their pain. Sometimes the patients would tell her about their children or grandchildren and pets they are missing back home. Often, she is their only visitor of the day, so they will tell Cockett that she made their day.

 

More than eight months have passed since volunteering has become part of Cockett’s biweekly routine, but much to her dismay, Cockett quickly discovered that many therapy organizations usually do not allow children under 16 to participate due to liability concerns and misperceptions that they may not be mature enough for the job.

 

Taking matters into her own hands, Cockett decided to form her own pet club for kids ages 9-13 with community giving in mind. She called it the PACK Club, which stands for Pets and Caring Kids.

 

“I wanted to expose my friends to volunteer and career opportunities with animals,” said Cockett. “It’s kind of like doing our homework early. We can make better choices about our future involvement in the community if we understand our options.”

 

Because there is nothing similar to the PACK Club in Arizona, people from a wide range of professions are rallying around Cockett by offering their support. An attorney provided legal paperwork without a fee. A design expert created a club logo for free. And industry leaders are offering their time to lead field trips and presentations for club members.

 

One organization that reached out to Cockett was the Foundation for Service Dog Support (FSDS). When executive director C. J. Betancourt learned about Cockett’s vision, she agreed to collaborate with the PACK Club by providing mentoring and leadership opportunities.

 

“We must never underestimate the ability of youths to make a true difference,” Betancourt said. “Alexandra and her friends are committed to making the community a better place, and their ambition must be encouraged and nurtured by the community.”

 

Another major supporter of the PACK Club is Dave Beskar, headmaster of Trivium Archway and Preparatory Academy, where Cockett attends school. He allowed Cockett to present the PACK Club to the student body, so she could recruit members.

 

"Alexandra's desire to do good for other people in a meaningful manner exemplifies the qualities Trivium Prep hopes to instill in all students," Beskar said. "Her effort to create and run the PACK club acts as a sign for all children her age to be good citizens of our state and country."

 

And Alexandra’s mother, Arminda Cockett, couldn’t be prouder of her daughter.

 

"I haven’t met a child who doesn’t dream big things, but Alexandra surprised all of us when she decided it was time to start making this dream a reality at such a young age,” she said.

 

What’s equally touching is that Cockett's mother overcame a fear of dogs and found a way to treat her allergies, so her daughter could experience pet ownership this year. They adopted a 2-year-old poodle-terrier mix named Milo last August and look forward to training him for pet therapy work.

 

Looking ahead, it won’t be all fun and games. Cockett knows she has a big mission. She understands the precious gift of her time and looks forward to the many patient’s hugs and tail wags that will come her way.

 

--CNN iReporter Nancy Newton

Posted by: ccostello3 // October 10, 2011
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Posted in: stories, stories
Remembering our fallen: Capt. Joshua McClimans  »

Editor’s Note: Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. We learned about Joshua McCliman’s story through Home and Away, an ongoing initiative to honor the men and women worldwide who died while serving in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. You can learn more about the project here.

 

When Joshua McClimans and his fiancée Melissa Bulebush would get a night alone together, McClimans would play the song “Johnny and June” by Heidi Newfield and they would slow dance together in their kitchen. The couple, who met while working as nurses at a hospital in Ohio, planned to get married and start a family of their own.

 

“We had a great loving relationship.  He always told me I was the love of his life,” Bulebush said.

 

McClimans and Bulebush had been together for three years when he was deployed to Afghanistan in March. This was McCliman’s second tour as a registered nurse in the army. His first tour was to Iraq in 2005. This deployment was expected to last a year.

 

“He loved taking care of soldiers,” Bulebush said. “He is a good-hearted person. He got along with anyone, and he helped anybody out.”

 

“While he was in Afghanistan, we talked over Skype a lot,” she added. “He made me realize how seriously dangerous it was over there and what he had to do to survive daily. He would always say to me, ‘No worries babe.’ I was scared for him.”

 

But McClimans never made it home. On April 22, 2011, the 30-year-old was killed when insurgents attacked his unit with indirect fire in Khost province, Afghanistan.

 

He leaves behind his future wife and his 7-year-old son Max, whom Bulebush described as being identical to his father.

 

On McClimans’ birthday this year, May 12, Bulebush posted a tribute to her fallen hero on CNN’s Home and Away, an interactive memorial for the service men and women who have been killed in action in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.  “Your spirit will comfort me and give me strength,” she wrote. “You will forever be in my heart and I will always love you. You are my hero!”

 

Bulebush wants people to remember her fiancé for being “an amazing father” and for “loving life and living it to the fullest.”

 

“Josh will be one of those people who will be remembered forever,” she said. “He has touched so many lives -- a young, vibrant man taken way before his time.”

Posted by: ccostello3 // October 7, 2011
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Posted in: stories
iReport boot camp roundtable today at 2 p.m. ET »

You did it! Congratulations to everyone who survived the second iReport boot camp, a seven-week special that challenged iReporters to sharpen their storytelling skills through a series of challenges.

 

Today at 2 p.m. ET, we will host the final boot camp roundtable. The iReport team will be on hand to answer any questions you might have regarding boot camp and storytelling. We would also like to hear about your boot camp experience

 

For the final boot camp assignment, we received more than 30 stories from iReporters around the world. Shari Atukorala reported on no-kill animal shelter in Sri Lanka; Esther Tanuadji shared the story of a school in Indonesia that's helping students realize their dreams; and Umari Ayim took a closer look at overpopulation in Nigeria. Their stories are just a handful of the fantastic submissions we received.

 

All of the boot camper iReporters worked extremely hard on their stories, so please take the time to check out their work. And at 2 p.m. ET, please come back to the comments section below for our roundtable discussion.

Posted by: ccostello3 // October 6, 2011
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Posted in: stories
Team iReport is looking for a spring intern »

It’s that time again! We’re looking for a spring intern to join our team at the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia. If you haven’t heard the word on the street yet, this is a sweet opportunity. (Seriously. In addition to vetting several iReport submissions and joining in brainstorm sessions, our current intern Joelle also defended the iReport Team’s honor in a friendly but heated bocce match with some colleagues yesterday.)

 

The full-time, paid internship lasts about 12 weeks and is open to college students currently enrolled in school. Course credit is available, and preference is given to candidates who have previously contributed to CNN iReport.

 

One lucky intern will work with iReport’s editorial team helping lead CNN’s user-generated news content, participatory media, and community efforts. In addition to vetting iReports, producing content, and helping with brainstorming and editorial planning, interns will also have the opportunity to learn from a host of CNN professionals across platforms.

 

Do you know a student who loves social media, user-participation, and wants to be part of a team that’s changing the way CNN covers news? Send ‘em our way!

Posted by:
 
katie
// October 5, 2011
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Posted in: community
iReport's coverage of Occupy Wall Street protests »

 

The leaderless movement, modeled after social-media-driven demonstrations in the Middle East, began on September 17, when hundreds of people descended on the streets of Lower Manhattan's financial district.

 

See photos from day one.

 

Now in its third week, the Occupy Wall Street protests have congregated hundreds of round-the-clock protesters, who have made Liberty Plaza their temporary home. Meanwhile, the number of demonstrators at weekend protests and marches has grown into the thousands, such as at this past Saturday's march on Brooklyn Bridge where hundreds were arrested.

 

Arthur Kohl-Riggs, 23, who joined the Occupy Wall Street protests 1,000 miles away from his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, sent us this video of the march:

 

 

To date, we've received almost 100 submissions to our assignment, but the iReports aren't just from New York City. We've received photos and videos from Washington, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago among others. Similar protests are cropping up all over the United States and at iReport we're gearing up to hear from all of them. Just yesterday we set up an Open Story, a collaborative visualization of the protests occurring all over the U.S. map.

 

Explore the Occupy Wall Street Open Story.

 

We invite you to follow the Open Story, and to submit your photos and video to our assignment if you are attending any rallies close to home or, as in Kohl-Riggs' case, somewhere not so close to home.

Posted by:
 
elchueco
// October 4, 2011
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Posted in: stories
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