Blog : March 2012
Big issues and great characters: The best of iReport this week »

This week had iReporters grappling with some big questions: What's the meaning of the Trayvon Martin case? Should the Supreme Court overturn the national health care law? How would you spend $500 million?


But that doesn't mean they didn't have time for some lighter human interest stories, too. Read on to see iReporters take on the big issues - and meet a few fun characters.


Hoodies for Trayvon



iReporters from all walks of life weighed in on the Trayvon Martin case, discussing its implications for racial profiling and self-defense laws. Many, like Kevin Alexander, pictured here, shot self-portraits wearing hoodies to indicate their viewpoints. "I felt it was important for me to take this photo due to the racial profiling I have received during my lifetime," said Alexander.


Supreme Court considers health care law



This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments about the sweeping health care law championed by President Obama. Many Americans, including several iReporters, attended rallies to support or criticize the law and try to influence the court's decision about its constitutionality. Michael Kandel, who says that, overall, he thinks the health care law is "a good thing," went to this rally to hear its opponents' side of the story. While there, he captured images of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Senator Rand Paul speaking out against the law.


What would you do with $500 million?



Matt Sky used iReport as a platform to ask a provocative, open-ended question: What would you do with $500 million? The regular iReport contributor pegged his question to the Mega Millions jackpot of $540 million - a world-record amount that will be given away Friday night. His video garnered nearly 400 responses, with iReporters saying they'd do everything from pay off student loans to travel the world to give it all to charity.


The shoe cobbler



Meet Henry Linder. He's 92 years old, and he's a cobbler in Landrum, South Carolina. He's been fixing shoes since he was a teenager the 1930s, and has the passion and people skills that go along with spending 76 years in the business. iReporter Erik Olsen gives us a glimpse into a day in Linder's life in this brilliant example of video storytelling.


The master chefs of MasterChef



How did foul-mouthed chef Gordon Ramsay get into cooking? What about his fellow MasterChef judges, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot? Regular iReporter Chris Morrow caught up with the trio to find out. She got three very different answers -- and a little dig at CNN's own Piers Morgan (from Ramsay, of course).


Is news happening where you are, or do you have an opinion you'd  like to share? You could be part of next week's Best of iReport. Share your story here.

Posted by:
// March 30, 2012
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Posted in: week_in_ireport
iReport roundtable: Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET  »

Hello, iReporters! Please join us here in the blog for our weekly roundtable discussion. We are looking forward to talking with everyone about what's going on in the community. We'll be talking about the latest stories and assignments on the site.  If you have any thoughts or comments about iReport this week, let us know.


If you have questions, suggestions or concerns, this is a great time to share them. We'll open comments at 2:30 p.m. ET. If you can't make it then, feel free to private message anyone on the iReport Team or email


We look forward to speaking with you soon!

Posted by:
// March 29, 2012
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Posted in: community
Health care protesters descend on D.C. »

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court took up the debate over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act [ACA], the national health insurance coverage scheme dubbed "Obamacare" that was passed into law in 2010 by a slim margin, and only after much controversy and partisan debate. The nine Justices are debating different aspects of the law, and their verdict will ultimately decide whether or not one of Obama's signature legislative achievements will survive his presidency.


Both supporters and opponents of the law descended on Washington, D.C., this week to attend the various rallies taking place over the ACA. Conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity held a "Hands off My Healthcare" rally to drum up the Tea Party opposition; Obama supporters staged their own rally touting the benefits of the ACA in coverage of women's healthcare.


Naturally, iReporters were there as it all went down, and captured some great photographs and on-the-ground flavor of the dueling protests.



Conservative firebrands Rep. Michele Bachmann and Sen. Rand Paul were on-hand at the Americans for Prosperity rally across the street from the Senate yesterday. Photographer Michael Kandel said that their speechifying delivered plenty of the usual red meat and "Republican talking points about health care that we've all heard before." He also notes that Bachmann and Paul "made sure to mention that Obama was out of the country on the second anniversary of the ACA."



Armando Gallardo had a prime view of the dueling camps when they staged simultaneous protests on the steps of the Supreme Court yesterday. He estimates that around 150 people showed up in total, and that the pro-ACA protesters had a slight numerical edge over their conservative counterparts.


Despite the charged nature of the debate, Gallardo said there was plenty of good will to go around. "It really surprised me how respectful both camps were of each other, no one was nasty or called each other names, it was surprisingly positive," he said.



iReporter Felix Masi has a personal stake in the ongoing debate over health care in the U.S., which is why he showed up to document the protest at the Supreme Court yesterday: "We have a 13-year-old with sickle cell," he said. If the Supreme Court renders a verdict that strikes down the ACA, his child may no longer be covered by insurance.


"You come to Uncle Sam, who has over 40 million people without health insurance," he said. "That means if you have over 40 million people without medical cover, it’s like a country without security. To me, strong security for a country is to make sure the people are not hopeless. People have a solid ground in that if they are sick, they’re not just going to die on the streets."


While these protesters were out hitting the pavement, there was plenty more debate in the digital trenches of CNN's comments section, and right here on iReport.


Did you attend any of the pro- or anti-ACA protests this week? Or do you have an opinion on healthcare that you're burning to share with the world? Now's the time to get in on the debate.

Posted by: jmsaba // March 28, 2012
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Posted in: stories, politics
iReport Pundit of the Week: Egberto Willies »

[This photo was taken as part of iReport's Persona series in 2011. Read more about it here.]


IT guru Egberto Willies of Kingwood, Texas, is perhaps one of our most prolific iReport commentators. An active member of the community since 2008, he can be seen offering his thoughts on video – and following up with a deep-dive on the issue at hand in the comments section – almost every single day. In addition to commenting on the national debate of the moment, he also regularly reports on local events in his area, and even participated in a year-long iReport project in 2010 tracking the state of the economy.


Even those who strongly disagree with him respect his integrity and moxie, which is why he’s our pick for Pundit of the Week.



Affiliations: “I am registered as a Democrat, but I’ve never voted straight-ticket in my life. I vote [for] the person. … My most important issue, bar none, is healthcare. We are the only country in the industrialized world without some kind of universal healthcare. I think it’s a human right, and I can’t understand why there’s so much resistance to taking care of each other. I think it’s sad, and even morally reprehensible.”


When did you get interested in politics?
“From the time I was in college. I went to the University of Texas, Austin, and joined the South African Liberation Action Committee; we worked to have universities and businesses divest from trade with South Africa until apartheid ended. When I joined corporate America and started my family, I began to tone my real-life activism down a little bit and got involved in heavily in online blogging.”


Why do you share your opinion on iReport?
“When there’s real news going on in the world, the fly-by-night networks drop their coverage and everyone tunes in to see what CNN is doing. And CNN gives two things to the iReporter: The CNN name, the cred of being approved for use on CNN web or TV, and the environment for debate. Even though many users might disagree with me and beat up on me a little, most of them are pretty darn intelligent, and you get a lot of great debate.”


Who is your political or journalistic hero?
“For the old-school, definitely Walter Cronkite. He had such gravitas. When it comes to the newer guys, most of them aren’t on TV. When I look at the factual basis for the work of [newspaper columnists] Paul Krugman and E.J. Dionne, and the analysis that these guys do in a 750-word piece, you wonder how this country could end up so misinformed and confused on issues like healthcare.”


What is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
“People are saying that it’s going to be all about numbers, like the economy and unemployment, but I think that this election is going to fool everybody.  I think this is going to be an ideological election about what kind of country we want for the future. The Occupy movement and the 99% are going to be the wildcard, if they manage to bring their issues to the discussion, maybe we’ll finally have a debate in this country about things like wealth disparity, and the structural defects in the way we define the economy.”


What’s something people might be interested in learning about you?
“When I was in college, making pizza helped put me through college; throwing the dough up in the air and spinning it, the real Italian way, just like the classic chefs do! I was a real pizza guy in the olden days.”


Follow Willies here, and watch your customizable homepage fill up with his smart, timely commentary. And if you’ve been hankering for a chance to add your voice to the mix and put your opinions out there, now’s your chance: Join the debate.

Posted by: jmsaba // March 27, 2012
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Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
A 'reason' to rally »

Thousands of atheists, agnostics and humanists gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. over the weekend for the 'Reason Rally,' an event touted as the largest gathering of non-theists in the history of the world. iReporters were part of the estimated 10,000 participants, capturing the sights and sounds of it all.



Navid Baraty, who shot several photos at the event, said he attended the Reason Rally because he wanted to be a part of something historic. "I think everyone felt like they were taking part in something not only great, but extremely important," said the New york City resident. "[The non-theists] were proud to be standing up for what they believe in, in a society that is often hostile or discriminatory towards their beliefs," Baraty said. He added that the overall message he got from the rally was to unite and empower all types of people from atheist to non-atheists to secularists and other non-believers.



Lulis Leal of New York said she wanted to attend the Reason Rally since she learned about it, and she was excited to finally witness it. The massive turnout was surprising because of the rain, she said, but she was thrilled to see so many people standing up for their rights to have alternative views.


"A lot of people are worried about coming out about their beliefs because they are afraid society will ostracize them, and they just go along with society. But this was a rally to support people with alternative beliefs, support and empower them and show them there are a lot of people with the same beliefs," she said.


The Reason Rally was just one of the many different rallies, protests and organized events that iReporters documented this weekend. We received stories from Trayvon Martin demonstrations across the country, Occupy Wall Street protests in Union Square, and, across the world, a protest against the recent killings of Shiites in Karachi, Pakistan.


News is happening everywhere. What about where you live? Share your story.

Posted by:
// March 26, 2012
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Black hoodies, green river: The best of iReport this week »

It was tough to narrow down this week's iReports to five favorites. From passionate discussions about the Trayvon Martin shooting, to gorgeous photos of cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., to messages of hope for escaped slaves in Mauritania, our community was full of life.


These are our top picks for the week:

'Million Hoodie March'

New York photographer Joel Graham stood in the crowd on Wednesday when hundreds gathered to demand justice for the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Central Florida last month. Marchers at Manhattan’s Union Square wore hooded black sweatshirts in honor of the teen’s style of dress. While he went as a journalist, Graham says it was difficult not to feel emotionally connected to the crowd.


Thousands gather for almsgiving

Anita Amy Kittiudom shared some stunning images and video of tens of thousands of Buddhist monks gathering in the streets of Bangkok, Thailand, on Sunday for an almsgiving ceremony to raise money for victims of last year's flooding. The scene, she said, was "magical." "Everyone that came out that day was amazed at the beauty and at the kindness that was taking place."


Earthquake rattles Mexico

Stephen P. Nichols Jr., a newspaper reporter in Mexico City, Mexico, was in his office on Tuesday when a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck Southern Mexico. Workers in the country’s capital evacuated to the streets, where he said there were "hundreds, if not thousands of people, crowding the streets and sidewalks waiting for instructions on what to do." Pablo-Jorge Velandia also shot footage of the evacuations and said people are still waiting for another earthquake: "As we say in Mexico, 'Earthquakes never come alone.'"


River runs green

Begorrah! It took two weeks of preparation for Kumaran Alagesan to shoot a time-lapse video of the Chicago River turning emerald green for St. Patrick's Day. He stitched it all together from a sequence of 900 images shot from the bridge overlooking the river. Alagesan, a 28-year-old information technology consultant, says photography is his passion.


Police move in on Occupiers

Photographer Shameel Arafin has been covering the Occupy Wall  Street protests since they began last fall. He was at the six-month anniversary rally on Saturday, when protesters tried to re-occupy Zuccotti Park. Arafin said police moved in and began arresting people, and in response, the protesters linked arms and sat on the ground, resulting in dozens of arrests.


Is news happening where you are, or do you have an opinion you'd like to share? You could be part of next week's Best of iReport. Share your story here.

Posted by: dsashin // March 23, 2012
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Posted in: week_in_ireport
Spring is near? No, spring is here. »


Picture this: a clear blue sky, a crystal lake and awe-inspiring monuments lined with pink and white bundles of blooms. Washington’s cherry blossoms are here, and they’re welcoming spring.


The National Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year in Washington, D.C., to showcase the blooming of 3,000 cherry blossom trees that were presented to our nation’s capital by Tokyo, Japan. It also salutes the arrival of spring.


This year, the festival is extra special: It’s the five-week centennial celebration of the trees – and it’s here a few weeks early.  The blossoms, which are typically at their peak bloom around the first week of April, have already begun to flourish due to unusually warm temperatures this winter season. But no one is complaining.


iReporter Ian Dixon, of Arlington, Virginia, headed to the Tidal Basin early Sunday morning to see the first bloom in what he thought was perfect photography weather. “I was really pleased with how this particular shot turned out,” he said.



Capturing the cherry blossoms in front of an iconic backdrop of the city is not uncommon this time of year. Chris Rafford, of Frederick, Maryland, says he wanted to show two symbols of D.C. in one picture. He shot this picture outside the Washington Monument on Sunday evening with his wife and daughters.



Inga Lukaviciute, a Washington, D.C. resident, was also mesmerized by the early blooms. “I didn’t want to miss them, so I wanted to take these photos before they disappear,” she said.



If you’re at the Cherry Blossom Festival this year or are simply appreciating the signs of spring, share your best photos and videos with us!

Posted by: ssesha // March 22, 2012
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Posted in: stories
Trayvon Martin killing sparks debate, 'Million Hoodie March' »

Florida teen Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman, an armed community watch officer, in an Orlando suburb last month. The killing sparked an intense debate over whether racism was a motivation in the shooting.


Last night, demonstrators undertook a "Million Hoodie March" in New York City, calling for formal charges to be filed against Zimmerman. iReporters were on the scene filing photos and videos of the rally, and several sounded off on the topic with passionate commentary.



Robert Espier has made a name for himself on iReport photographing various Occupy events in New York City, so the convergence of an Occupy rally in Union Square with the Million Hoodie March afforded him the opportunity to catch these two groups of activists joining forces. He witnessed Martin's parents and several New York City councilmembers giving impassioned speeches on the shooting. "One of the council members said 'We aren't asking for different rights, we are asking for the very same rights as everyone else,'" he said.



Longtime iReporter Omekongo Dibinga believes that Zimmerman now has a responsibility to turn himself in to the police. “If he feels his good name is being tarnished, he should come forward now. I think that would make the most sense if he truly believes he’s innocent,” he said. “The longer he stays quiet, the situation can only get worse, for his situation and his safety.”



Filmmaker Rene Carson was documenting the Occupy rally in Union Park when he saw the marchers for Trayvon Martin join forces with the Occupiers. Intrigued by this development, he started snapping more photos as the protesters spilled into the nearby streets, blocking traffic.


“Overall, it was a very positive and peaceful experience,” he said. “There was lots of confusion because many of the people who came to the march didn't know the full details of the shooting, but people started coming up to the protesters and talking to them, and then more people started joining in the march.”


What's your take on the shooting of Trayvon Martin, and the intense debate that has ensued? Share your opinion with iReport.

Posted by: jmsaba // March 22, 2012
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Posted in: stories
iReport roundtable: Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET »

John Sutter in Mauritania


Please join us here at 2:30 p.m. ET on Thursday for a special edition of our weekly roundtable discussion. reporter John Sutter will be joining us to answer questions about his powerful series on slavery in Mauritania. In 1981, Mauritania was the last country to abolish slavery, but Sutter and video producer Edythe McNamee went there in December and found that slavery is still practiced.


Sutter will answer questions about how they got the story and we'll talk about what you can do to show your support for escaped slaves in Mauritania.


If you can’t make the roundtable, he is also hosting a hangout on Google+ at 1:30 p.m. ET today to talk about the project.


We'll also spend some time responding to any other questions, comments or suggestions you may have about iReport.


Comments will open at 2:30 p.m. ET. We'll talk with you then.

Posted by:
// March 22, 2012
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Posted in: community
First Bill Gates, now Gates Foundation answers you »

When we asked iReporters to send their questions for a CNN interview with Bill Gates last month, we received 121 videos – more than we’ve ever received for an iReport Interview! (Yes, that even includes Michelle Obama.)


Gates himself answered four questions, but there were so many passionate, knowledgeable ones left unanswered. We were so impressed with the questions about agricultural development in Africa that we shared them with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And guess what? The Foundation agreed to answer some more!


Roy Steiner, a deputy director in the agricultural program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, responded to another round of questions in this in-depth video for iReport. He addresses: barriers to development, how to promote sustainability and other needs in Africa. Congratulations to all the iReporters who had their questions answered!



Thanks for the Gates Foundation and Steiner for personally answering these hard-hitting questions from iReporters LaCharles James, Noelle Bates, Girish Kotwal and Adrienne Lahr. If you are a curious soul brimming with questions, we invite you to check out the iReport Interview group for the latest assignments.

Posted by:
// March 21, 2012
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Posted in: community
iReporter honored by Georgia broadcast society »

CNN iReporter (and former intern) James Brierton was honored on Tuesday at the University of Georgia, where he is currently a junior.

The Georgia Association of Broadcasters honored Brierton with the WSB Award, named after the Atlanta radio/television affiliate, at the DiGamma Kappa Banquet. The award, given by the University’s broadcasting society, salutes those committed to community service through radio broadcasting.

Brierton’s work on was a big reason why he received the recognition.

“I founded the station as my high school radio station, and it’s now a privately run venture,” said Brierton. “We've always been focused on training our all-volunteer student staff in the field of broadcasting while also serving our community.”

Brierton added that he also contributes to the campus station, WUOG and Long Island, New York’s WALK, as well as iReport, of course.

Congratulations James!

Posted by:
// March 21, 2012
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Posted in: community
iReport Pundit of the Week: Jannet Walsh »


Minnesota-bred photographer Jannet Walsh knows a good story when she hears it. It’s why she’s always eager to sound off on the news, from the recent controversy over working conditions at Apple’s Foxconn plant, to her own experiences with unemployment.


Her nose for news is part of the reason why she was tapped by HLN to speak with Clark Howard on the struggles facing unemployed workers in this country, and it’s also why she’s our pick for Pundit of the Week.



Issues and affiliations: “Any candidate who doesn’t think that the unemployed have real problems, they probably shouldn’t be running for office.”


How did you get interested in politics?

“In 1968, Hubert Humphrey got the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party. That year, he came to my hometown of Litchfield, Minnesota. He flew in, and I remember all of these people were lined up to see him, and my mother was so excited, telling me ‘Here he comes, here he comes!’ I didn’t quite get it, although I was only 4 or 5 at the time, but politics has always been a big part of my family.”


Why do you share your opinion on iReport?

“I live in a remote part of the country, [Murdock, MN, population 303] yet at the same time, with iReport, I’m not. I live about a two and a half hour car ride from the Twin Cities, but here, I can speak to the entire world. … I grew up with news junkies, but back at that time, no one could have ever predicted that people could directly respond to the news the way we can now.”


Who is your political or journalistic hero?

“Eddie Adams, the Vietnam War photographer. I got to meet him early on in my career, as part of the Eddie Adams Workshop. ... I had so many questions to ask him, but I was so starstruck that I completely choked up.”


What is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?

“It all comes down to the economy. Who is going to pull us up, and does that person, man or woman, have a plan to make us stronger economically? Does that person speak to people in need? There are so many people who can’t find jobs right now, and so many of them are just giving up.”


What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?

“When I lived in Europe, I was in the Netherlands. The only way I could work at the time was to start my own company, so I took a Dutch-language course so that I could interview for a freelance photography gig with a Dutch newspaper. The whole interview was in Dutch, and I struggled through it, and at the end of the two-hour conversation the editor said, ‘The next time you come, could you speak in English?’”


Follow Walsh here on iReport, or check out some of her excellent photography here. If you’d like to get in on the conversation and throw your hat into the ring for Pundit of the Week, now’s your chance: Join the debate.

Posted by: jmsaba // March 20, 2012
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Posted in: community, pundit_of_the_week
Your best SXSW photos on display »

Shiny food trucks. A spontaneous dance party. Streets filled with revelers. A lone bike on a rainy sidewalk.


These were just some of the sights that iReporters captured last week during South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. The film, interactive and music conference – known as SXSW – came to a close yesterday.


During the conference, we showcased iReporters’ best SXSW photos in a pop-up gallery at the Austin Convention Center. The display changed daily with the latest photos we received. Visitors to the gallery also had the opportunity to upload their favorite Austin photo to iReport and print it as a postcard.



Photographer Chris Suspect of Hyattsville, Maryland, had a starring role in Monday’s gallery, with his artful photo of a woman standing at a crosswalk. He also earned a spot in Thursday’s selection of photos with a snapshot from an impromptu photo shoot.


Mary Ling of Shanghai, China, happened upon an Angry Birds flash mob and snapped this colorful photo, which we showcased in our gallery on Wednesday.


And Jeremiah Mayhew of Sacramento, California, also appeared twice in the gallery – with his insider view of Google’s Android House, part of the popular "Google Village" erected for South by Southwest Interactive, and photo of a man and his dog roaming the streets at night.


Mayhew had never been to the conference before, and hoped to capture that with his photography. “The images were taken in the mind state that I am creating a memory,” he explained. “I keep doubting that this is all happening. My eyes have truly been opened throughout this SXSW experience and my heart is more inspired than ever.”


Thank you to all of the photographers who shared their fantastic SXSW photos with iReport. You can explore them all here.

Posted by: katie // March 19, 2012
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Posted in: stories
South by South-best: The best of iReport this week »

A range of emotions lit up our site as iReporters celebrated, traveled and reflected on some big events that happened this past week. We’re highlighting this week’s interesting iReports, so check them out!


SXSW 2012


South by Southwest (SXSW) – an annual music, film and technology conference – was in full swing this week. Many of us weren't lucky enough to experience the interactive booths and impromptu music concerts firsthand, so we lived vicariously through our iReporters who sent in an array of photos and videos of SXSW through their eyes. First-time iReporter Chris Janka sent in an image of himself standing in the Canon screening room, where he was surrounded by more than 95,000 photographs from a documentary project by Ron Howard. The photo gallery was composed entirely of user-generated photographs. The Santa Monica native said he felt amazed and overwhelmed to be surrounded by all the images and their stories: "It just seems with technology being at the state it’s in it is really empowering people, young and old, to capture moments in their life."


Occupy protests shut down D.C.’s K Street



The Occupy movement is still alive across the U.S., as Michael Kandel documented through a photo earlier this week. As a freelance photographer in Washington, D.C., Kandel said he keeps his ear close to the ground to see where Occupy demonstrations will take place around the D.C. area. On this particular night he followed a group of Occupy protesters from the White House to K Street, where the group ended up lying down in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. "I think if you can stop people on the street, then you are drawing attention to your message, I mean it got my interest piqued," he said.

Remembering Japan



The mood was somber as people across the world reflected on the earthquake and tsunami disasters that hit Japan one year ago. Cristian Williams captured images from Hibiya Park in Tokyo where people gathered to remember those they lost. "There was also a mutual feeling of respect among the audience. Respect towards those affected, and respect towards those who weren't directly affected, but still attended the ceremony," he said. Williams was one of the dozens of iReporters who sent us their thoughts, images and stories on the anniversary of the disaster; you can see it all woven together into the CNN piece “Lost and found: Japan One Year Later.”


Rejoice for Pi(e) Day



iReporters celebrated math with dessert by sending in pictures and recipes of their favorite pie dishes for March 14th. Michele Hays sent in a delicious photograph of her pie, ingeniously dubbed (Pi)neapple and rhubarb pie. For the past few years, Hays has been baking up pi-inspired pies, and considers herself a math appreciator. "I'm not particularly good at math. However, I do love to cook, and I'm learning that cooking is really a system of applied mathematics."

American Airlines freakout



The routine runway taxiing of American Airlines flight 2332 came to an halt as the screams of one flight attendant poured out of the aircraft's intercom system. Passenger Laurie Grabe captured the chilling screams of the flight attendant as she demanded passengers get off the plane. The flight attendant said the plane was likely to crash, which many saw as an allusion to September 11th. Grabe's iReport became one of the most popular videos on our site that day and was featured on CNN television as well. OutFront’s Erin Burnett interviewed Grabe on television, where they talked about the incident and the passengers’ reactions.


Is news happening where you are, or do you have an opinion you'd like to share? You could be part of next week's Best of iReport: Share your story now.

Posted by: jmsaba // March 16, 2012
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Posted in: week_in_ireport
iReport roundtable: Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET »

Please join us in the blog for our weekly roundtable discussion.


We want to tell you about our new video comment feature that will let you record and upload webcam videos to iReport directly from stories.


We're still testing things out, but our goal is to turn every story into an invitation to participate in the conversation. You can try it out yourself by scrolling down to the bottom of this story about Tuesday's primary results.


If you've got any other questions, comments or suggestions, we'll be happy to talk about those too.


Comments will open at 2:30 p.m. ET. We'll talk with you then.

Posted by:
// March 15, 2012
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Posted in: comments
iReport Pundit of the Week: Mary Beth Cox »


Mary Beth Cox has a voice and she’s not afraid to use it. The Virginia resident first lit up the iReport arena with an honest, pointed video commentary about the resurgence of the contraception debate. That video and the follow-up after it launched a big conversation about women's health right here on iReport.


When someone starts intelligent discourse on iReport, we notice. With that, we honor Cox as the latest iReport Pundit of the Week.


Affiliation: "I tend to align myself more with the Democratic Party, but I'm open to not voting along party lines. I'm most likely to vote for somebody who supports policies favorable to women, children, families (ALL families) and fiscal responsibility. People may think that's an oxymoronic statement (or just moronic) in the current climate, but I don't think it has to be that way."


How did you first get interested in politics?
"Very early on, I recognized that when a few people make decisions for a whole population, some agree, some disagree, some get left out, and some leave. My first clear memory of this is growing up in the Catholic Church, having an epiphany that there were only men standing on the stage telling people how they should live. That's a powerful realization for a child. Just because I was a girl, I was being left out. It was the first time I understood that, no, I couldn't be anything I wanted to be. It felt very wrong. It set the stage for scrutiny throughout my life of who's making the decisions and why."


Why do you share your opinion on iReport?
"I think what I have to say is important. That may sound conceited, but the truth is, what everybody has to say is important, especially if they're passionate about it.  More people should make iReports. I work. I have kids. I can't go to the Capitol or make phone calls to my legislator all the time. But I can take 20 minutes to make an iReport and say something that connects with somebody or starts a discussion."


Who is your political or journalistic hero?
"I love NPR. They go deeper into important topics and stories than any other outlet. I read a lot of journalistic books that deeply examine an issue, use sciences, and teach me something. The last one I read was called "Garbage Land" by Elizabeth Royte. That's important to me because serious issues demand a microscope, not a lacquering that most news organizations give."


What is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
"I think it will depend on who gets the GOP nomination. If it's Mitt Romney, we may be able to have a rational tug-of-war around the national debt and economic growth. If it's Rick Santorum, it will likely be around what people euphemistically call 'social issues' which will really be a fight about the imposition of religious and moral views in public policy. You can infer how I feel about that in question No. 2."


What's something people might be surprised to learn about you?
"I used to be painfully shy about speaking in public. Ten years ago, I would have NEVER considered making a video of myself, much less putting it up for public scrutiny. Since then I think I've learned, by hook or by crook, to be vulnerable ... at least more than before. You only live once."


Follow Cox here and check out her latest updates on your customized iReport homepage. And, if having a conversation about big issues strikes your fancy, get ready to debate about what matters to you. Join the debate and you could be our next Pundit of the Week.

Posted by:
// March 13, 2012
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Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
iReporters remember Japan earthquake, tsunami »


As clocks struck 2:46 p.m., yesterday, people across Japan shared a moment of silence to remember massive 9.0 earthquake that rattled the country one year ago on March 11, 2011. From somber memorials to messages of hope, iReporters captured the array of emotions marking the anniversary.


Nearly 16,000 people died and 3,000 others remain missing after the earthquake and tsunami. Thousands streamed into Hibiya Park in Tokyo, Japan, many of them crying silently during a memorial. iReporter Cristian Williams said he felt a "mutual feeling of respect" throughout the crowd, between those who were affected by the disaster and those who wanted to offer their support.


"Towards the end, after 2:46, it seemed to take a turn towards optimism," Williams said. "Many talked about how recovering made Japan and its people much stronger. No one would forget 3-11-11, but everyone won't dwell on it. Japan will recover and continue to strive."


Elsewhere in Tokyo, it appeared a normal day -- reflecting how life has moved on from tragedy -- as shoppers walked through the upscale shopping district of Ginza.


"A year has passed with much, pain, shock and silence,"  said iReporter Allan Cook, who was commuting to his job as an English teacher in central Tokyo when the earthquake hit. "I think now we really need to celebrate the lives of those that died. And we need to bring back the happiness to those that survived and are suffering."


And across the Pacific, earthquake survivor Ayack Alberto Montalvan Aleman spoke about his experience at a candlelight ceremony in Managua, Nicaragua. The event was organized by students that studied in Japan.


"We wanted to organize this in order for us as Nicaraguans to say, 'We are here, and we are supporting you Japan,'" he said.


Dozens of iReporters who witnessed the earthquake and tsunami gave us updates on how their lives have changed over the past year. From uncertainty to courage, distrust to control, and despair to hope, we told the stories of five of these iReporters in a story that ran on yesterday.


Thank you for sharing your powerful stories. And, in the words of the Japanese posters that have cropped up all over the country: "Japan, Rising Again. Thank you for your support."

Posted by:
// March 12, 2012
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Posted in: stories
Dollhouse lost in storm, Trekkie voter finds voice: The best of iReport this week »

A little spring, a lot of storm, offensive remarks by Rush Limbaugh and, of course, Super Tuesday, kept iReporters on their toes all week. But just in case you missed them, here are some of our favorites that may have slipped through the cracks.


Destruction and a dollhouse



Missouri native Bill Benson empathizes with tornado victims in his state. He was moved by the scenes of destruction left behind by the tornado that hit on February 29 in Buffalo, Missouri – about an hour away from where he lives in, Laurie, Missouri. He said this image he shot was especially heartbreaking. “The dollhouse was an unusual sight that seemed to speak strangely of the whole surrounding,” he said. “As with finding any child’s toy in a disaster zone, it makes you have a great deal of empathy and hope that toy and child are reunited.”


Protests follow Putin



Elena Ratner attended a protest held in Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow, Russia, on March 5, where demonstrators rallied against Vladimir Putin’s hotly-contested victory in last weekend’s presidential elections. She said there was a mixture of emotions in the crowd, ranging from frustration to exhaustion. CNN reported that more than 20,000 protesters took to the streets of Moscow; Ratner said she later witnessed large numbers of people being detained by the police following the demonstrations.


While she attended as an observer, she said she supports the protesters. “In my opinion, we suffered a defeat and it’s sad,” she said. “People are frustrated about authorities, and particularly Putin, [who] don’t care about our demands.”


Super (Star Trek) Tuesday


Musician Jeremiah LongBear from Knoxville, Tennessee, is what people call a “Trekkie" (yes, that's his preferred term). He always wears his ‘Star Trek’ Starfleet uniform when voting because he sees the Federation’s Prime Directive as an allegory for his political philosophy: Non-interference and Constitutionalism. On Tuesday, he voted for Ron Paul in the Tennessee primary because “he’s the only candidate that believes in the prime directive of non-interference and non-intervention,” he said. Check out this video of LongBear in his uniform at his local polling place!


LongBear said he plans to campaign for Ron Paul in different states while he’s on tour with his band.


Apple's latest


Singer-songwriter and gadget blogger Christian Hermida joined iReport this week to share his comprehensive review of Apple’s new iPad. Hermida, who writes about personal technology in San Diego, California, discussed the fresh features of the iPad in his video, but said he was underwhelmed by the tablet’s specs. “Many people including myself were hoping for a true quad core A6 processor, but instead the new iPad includes an A5X processor,” he says. “Also, the lack of Siri in the iPad is a huge disappointment for me.” Still, he said, “Apple has changed the game” and made “a viable content producing device.”


The art of preservation


Art students were recently put to good use by the government of Pakistan in its capital, Lahore. University students from various art institutions in the city painted cultural murals on the vandalized, broken walls of the city for an entire day. Munawar Ahmed left work on Saturday and returned on Monday morning to find the walls by his place of work transformed. “They did it on Sunday, from morning to evening,” he said. “It’s a good initiative by the government of Pakistan to save the walls.”


Is news happening where you are, or do you have an opinion you'd like to share? You could be part of next week's Best of iReport. Share your story now.

Posted by: ssesha // March 9, 2012
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Posted in: week_in_ireport
Team iReport grows again: Welcome, Jareen Imam! »

You may have noticed a new face at the weekly CNN iReport roundtable yesterday. That's because we have a fabulous new associate producer to introduce! Her name is Jareen Imam, and she comes to us after a stint as a video journalist and editorial assistant in CNN television.


If the name sounds familiar, that's because it is: Jareen was our iReport intern in spring 2011! We're thrilled to have her sharp journalistic skills and entertaining sense of humor back on the team, where she'll focus on weekend coverage.


Jareen is a 2011 graduate of Emory University here in Atlanta, where she majored in journalism and creative writing. She also wrote for the school paper, political review and satire magazine, and produced student films. At CNN, she was an editorial assistant to the CNN newsroom staff and worked with CNN's election coverage team before joining team iReport as an associate producer.


Welcome (back) to the wonderful world of iReport, Jareen!

Posted by:
// March 9, 2012
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Posted in: community
iReport roundtable: Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET »

Please join us here at 2:30 p.m. ET for our weekly roundtable discussion. Today, we're talking about politics  in the roundtable, specifically our latest political assignment.

Since Super Tuesday did not decide the GOP presidential race, we’re asking iReporters why Mitt Romney seems to be struggling to connect with voters. We want iReporters to get on camera and share their perspectives, and we’ll plan to share tips about what makes a good political commentary.


We'll also be welcoming Jareen Imam, the newest member of Team iReport. She interned with us last year and started working with us fulltime as an Associate Producer on Monday.


Comments will open at 2:30 p.m. ET. We look forward to talking with you.

Posted by:
// March 8, 2012
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Posted in: community
A not-so-Super Tuesday »

Super Tuesday has come and gone, and iReporters of every political stripe had similar reactions: Yawn. With Mitt Romney still unable to unify a fragmented conservative base, and none of his rivals able to break away as a clear challenger to Romney's frontrunner status, the race looks set to drag on for weeks to come.



Katy Brown is a senior at Ohio's Kent State University, and was one of iReport’s regular conservative commentators during the 2008 election campaign. This year, she decided not to vote in her state's primary because none of the candidates appealed to her.


"Romney is so disconnected from the reality of the life of an average American," she said. "Ron Paul is too out there, I guess that's the best way to put it. Gingrich, I feel, disappeared. And Santorum is too religion- and Tea Party-based for me."



Conservative iReporter William Bernstein from Virginia Beach, Virginia, also didn't vote in his state's Super Tuesday primary. "I am just not sure about either of the presidential candidates in the running right now, but hopefully that will be cleared up by the general election this fall," he said, referring to GOP hopefuls Romney and Rick Santorum. "On the ballot here in Virginia is only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, so even then, not much of a choice."


Matt Zieminski of Redding, California, was less kind, dubbing the four remaining GOP contenders "The Four Stooges" for their performances. "As long as Romney cannot get Republican voters to rally around him and his ideas, and as long as the three remaining candidates stay in the race, the delegate count will continue to be spread thin," he said.



And Longtime iReport commentator Adriana Maxwell of Atlanta, Georgia thinks that despite Romney's inability to quickly wrap up the nomination, he's almost certainly going to be his party's nominee. "It's the Republican Party's turn not to field a strong team," she said, likening Romney's situation to the GOP's nomination of Senator Bob Dole in the 1996 presidential election.


All of this raises an even bigger question: Why isn’t Romney resonating with some Republican voters? It's a topic that's going to be on everyone's mind in the coming weeks, and we want to hear your personal views.

Posted by: jmsaba // March 7, 2012
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Posted in: politics, community
iReport Pundit of the Week: Mark Ivy »


It’s Super Tuesday, so it’s fitting that today’s pick for Pundit of the Week is a consummate politics junkie. Mark Ivy, 57, hails from Farmersburg, Indiana, and is an iReport commentator who tackles it all: In-depth issues, the horse race, and everything in between. And to his credit, he’s also never afraid to take on critics and admirers alike by jumping into the comments section and initiating some lively — and respectful — dialogue.



Affiliation: "I’m an independent moderate, I would say. Some things I tend to be conservative on, like the debt and fiscal policy, and some things I tend to be more liberal on, like certain social issues."


How did you first get interested in politics?
"I’ve been a politics junkie since I first started reading, and all through my education. I really started to go deep into things when I started to work for a daily newspaper, the 'Linton Daily Citizen' right here in Indiana. Out of nowhere, I became a reporter for them for several years, and politics was part of the beat."


Why do you share your opinion on iReport?
"For me, it’s about the community. I’m disabled, so in a way, iReport keeps me connected with the outside world. Even though I have some physical problems, mentally, I can still assess and listen, and sort through what’s going on in the world.


"I always try to do iReport commentary on issues that, whether I agree with them or not, at least gets a conversation going. Discussion is how we learn."


Who is your political or journalistic hero?
"Back in the day, I used to read anything by James Kilpatrick I could get my hands on. He seemed to have it down pat, that you have to know who your audience is, and write to them. You can’t always be going over, or under, their heads. You’ve gotta find that middle ground. So, Kilpatrick was a source I went to all the time to figure out the best way to improve my copy."


What is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
"It’s all going to boil down to whoever has the best leadership skills, because that’s really what people look for in a president. Whether it ends up being President Obama, or one of the current Republican field, this election will be a referendum on who has the best ideas and acumen to lead the nation for the next four years."


What’s something that people might be surprised to know about you?
"One of the most unique things about me was that one of my first jobs out of college was working on an egg farm down in Louisiana, by myself, tending to something like 12,000 hens. Cleaning eggs, cleaning out the coops, and then packaging the eggs in cartons to be shipped off to the stores."


Follow Ivy here on iReport, and watch your customized homepage fill up with his smart, cutting-edge commentary. And if you’d like to take a more active role in the debate, you’re in luck! With election season kicking into full swing, there’s never been a better time to join the debate.

Posted by: jmsaba // March 6, 2012
 22 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
iReporters lead CNN TV storm coverage »

Over the past week, iReporters have helped CNN viewers put a human face on the storms and tornadoes ravaging the South and Midwest United States.


A lot of people were still asleep on Wednesday when a tornado hit Harrisburg, Illinois, but nurse practitioner Jane Harper was working at Harrisburg Medical Center and snapped images of the destruction. She described the chaotic scene with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux and again with CNN's Brooke Baldwin.


"Sometimes we get desensitized after looking at home after home that was destroyed," says CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras, who frequently highlights iReports on TV.  "When you hear from iReporters, when you hear the frightening experience they're going through, it really makes put it into perspective for our viewers that this affected people’s lives."


When a series of twisters hit Henryville, Indiana, on Friday, CNN crews headed to the scene to report on the damage. But one of the most powerful pieces of footage came from iReporter Chad Hinton, who was driving on Indiana when he spotted "a huge tornado in the sky." CNN's Josh Levs, who was on the air covering images sent into CNN including iReports, featured Hinton's video on TV Saturday, along with Virginia Military Institute student Ted Gottwald's iReport footage of massive hail in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


"We were showing all this devastation in Henryville, but what this iReporter had captured was video of the tornado. He was looking at it," Levs says. "That piece of footage put in context all the devastation that we saw in Henryville."


Powerful footage also came in from Kevin Welz, who captured the tornado dropping down in Henryville, Indiana. He spoke live with Don Lemon Saturday night.


"It was ... a wrong place at the right time type of situation," Welz says. "I should have been looking for cover but by the time that thought entered my head it was almost over."


Levs and Jeras want to remind iReporters that getting video should never come before their safety. "Don't go into danger to take any videos," Levs says. "I won’t show it if I have the sense that that person went into danger."

Posted by: dsashin // March 5, 2012
 3 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
Severe weather, leap day, and an unforgettable dance: The best of iReport this week »

It was a jam-packed news week, and iReporters were busy. We received dozens of stories in response to events such as rising gas prices, a school shooting in Ohio, and the GOP presidential race, to name a few. Here are some other standout iReports you may have missed:


Documenting the tornado aftermath

Rebecca Smiley of Harrisburg, Illinois, was asleep before her shift Wednesday at a medical clinic when she was jolted awake by a powerful tornado tearing through the area. After the storm passed, she went to work with local rescue teams to assist survivors of the catastrophe, and took several photos of the devastating aftermath.


“I'm just really proud of my community, watching the way doctors nurses and rescue workers came together,” she said. “People came in from all around, it was very impressive to see people do this, knowing that so many of us had just lost so much.”


Davy Jones and the James Cagney dance

iReporter Pamela Grogan experienced the dream of a lifetime in 1977, when Monkees front man Davy Jones pulled her onstage during a concert in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Jones tried to teach her actor James Cagney’s dancing style, but she said she was laughing too hard to get any of the steps right. “I was so excited and was laughing, he was so cute and dreamy,” Grogan remembered. The former teen idol died at 66 earlier this week.


Sunshine after the snowstorm

As parts of Europe finally began to thaw out following weeks of severe winter weather, no one was happier than iReporter Annamaria Capicchioni, who was trapped in her home in San Marino, Italy, for three days. “I thought I was going to suffocate under all that snow,” she said. “It was a terrible experience which I would not wish for my worst enemy.” She shared photos of sunshine making a triumphant return in the town on February 25.


Leap day, with the help of some friends

Although Jutka T. Emoke Barabas of Honolulu, Hawaii, may not be able to jump on her own due to medical complications, that didn’t stop her from taking part in our leap day challenge. Two friends held her up so she could take a “leap” on February 29.


“Even this was a great achievement for me personally,” she wrote via email. “I feel that today [I] won over the pain and the cruel illness.” We couldn’t be happier for Barabas and all of the iReporters who joined the fun on leap day. You can see some of the best leaps caught on camera in our Open Story.


Moon, Venus and Jupiter align

Jupiter, Venus, and the crescent moon came together last weekend to form a shining triangle that delighted stargazers. Photographer Scott Shoup went to a lake near his home in Superior, Colorado, hoping to get a shot of the celestial sight reflecting off the water. The Colorado native says he loves looking at the night sky. His photo along with other iReporters’ accounts of the alignment appeared on CNN’s Light Years blog.


Thanks to everyone who contributed such interesting stories this week! We love to see what's going on around the world.


Is news happening where you are, or do you have an opinion you'd like to share? You could be part of next week's Best of iReport. Share your story now.

Posted by: katie // March 2, 2012
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Posted in: week_in_ireport
iReport roundtable: Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET »

Please join us here in the blog for our weekly roundtable discussion. We are looking forward to talking with everyone about what's going on in the community. We'll be talking a lot about politics next week, since ten states will be  holding presidential primaries or caucuses on Super Tuesday. If you've got an idea for an election-related assignment we could do, let us know.


If you've got questions, suggestions or concerns, this is a great time to share them. We'll open comments at 2:30 p.m. ET. If you can't make it then, feel free to private message anyone on the iReport Team or email me at

Posted by:
// March 1, 2012
 110 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community
Happy hopping leap day! »


We challenged iReporters all over the world to help us commemorate that quadrennial extra day in our calendars, February 29, 2012, by capturing an image of a leaper in mid-air. Much to our delight, iReporters jumped on the challenge right away.


In Guilderland, New York, Zeynep Rice set her camera on a table and used a self-timer with 10-second delay to get her shot, just after midnight. Self-timers were a popular method to snap the hops, while others took the opportunity to enlist a little bit help from their friends.



iReporter Andrew Go from Quezon City, Philippines, took a break during his work day to visit the Quezon Memorial Circle, where he got his friend Orly Villarta to hit the shutter button.



Londoner John Connolly took a photo of his girlfriend, Elaine Neish, at the Hampton Court Palace. Turns out, they've had more practice than others: "It is one of her favorite tricks," Connolly said. "I've got pictures of her leaping all 'round the world!"


Thanks to all the good people who participated, we were able to spring an Open Story with your photos from around the world.


And anyone who made an upload to the assignment will be happy to know that we're introducing a special leap day badge as a token of our appreciation for your help in making this assigment so much fun.


Happy leap day, one and all, and let's plan on doing the same thing in four years!

Posted by:
// March 1, 2012
 4 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community
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