Tuesday, August 21, 2012
CNN Radio brings election to life with iReporters

When CNN Radio's Embed America got its start the idea was simple: let's cover the election from the vantage point of the people and the issues that really matter. Simple enough. Then came the task of narrowing down the important issues and also finding voices that bring them to life. That's where the iReport community played a huge role.


iReporters gave us both the issues and the voices. This is a community that knows what they care about and can explain why complex issues like energy policy matter.


One night, after hearing yet another disparaging comment made about coal miners, iReporter Amanda Sedgmer sat at her computer and penned a passionate letter. "The real story is the 'war on coal,'" Sedgmer wrote, "and it needs to be in the spotlight. It affects everyone."


The nearly 9,000 comments on our report featuring Sedgmer's family brought the divide on coal and energy policy into sharp focus. She was right; this is an issue that impacts a broad swath of America.


Sedgmer and the five other iReporters we visited were from diverse backgrounds and scattered across the country. They all cared about different things but they all shared an excitement and a desire to be heard.


Jessie Fraunfelder and his family have faced tough economic circumstances recently and have had to cut back. But Fraunfelder won't give up staying informed and contributing to iReport. We visited Fraunfelder at his home in Aurora, Colorado, the day after the deadly movie theater shooting. This election year, Fraunfelder is concerned about partisanship. He rattles off recent votes and issues that illustrate his point. "If we worked 5% of the time and 80% of the time we said: 'We're either not going to vote, we're going to scream at each other or not do our job at all.' What would happen to us?" he asked, referring to his view of our elected officials. “Would we be fired? I think so." Fraunfelder said he hoped the shooting would prompt another opportunity for people to come together. Community, or lack thereof, continues to define this election cycle.


In East St. Louis, iReporter Louis Jones told us about another issue facing his community: the lack of decent education. Jones went to private school but many of his peers attended schools that he said seemed like little more than a "day care center." Education has not been a big campaign issue, and that bothers Jones. The way he sees it, there are many small things that could improve education, like allowing students to evaluate teachers. "I feel like teacher evaluations by the student, and looking at their academic record, I'm pretty sure you can tell a good teacher from a bad teacher."


Jannet Walsh's issue has been on the minds and lips of many Americans this election cycle. She's concerned about small businesses and jobs. Walsh is no stranger to CNN. She participated in the iReport Awards and she's been interviewed by Clark Howard, but having CNN come to her was a completely different experience. Life is different in small towns like hers and she thinks it's important that people know the unique challenges people around the country face. Walsh has hung her shingle in her family's hometown of Murdock, Minnesota, and urges the candidates to think about new ways to structure the economy and make sure people across the country have what they need to be successful.


Rose Bear Robe also lives in a small town, St. Francis, South Dakota, but her issue is way off the candidates' radar. Bear Robe wrote into iReport hoping to save her son from what she sees as a broken judicial system. "We need to make our voice heard about the disparities in the federal/state judicial system," she wrote. "Please consider this article a plea for help." Visiting the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, many problems are readily apparent. Over 80% of the community is unemployed and locals trade tales of abuse and neglect. Despite all these issues, Bear Robe and her family choose to share their stories and open their doors in the hope that things will change on the reservation.


Janet Copeland also shared a very personal story with iReport. For her, the big issue is health care. She wrote to iReport about how she's draining her life savings to pay insurance premiums, "This is far from right," she wrote. For this reason, Copeland supports President Obama and his signature health care overhaul. But visiting Copeland's household illustrates how the issue is playing out on the campaign trail. That's because Copeland's household, much like the nation, is divided on the issue of health care. Richard Copeland, Janet's husband is opposed to the law and the will vote for Mitt Romney. "I did not like the way it was shoved down our throats," he said.


Working with and interviewing iReporters enabled us to tell complicated stories about health care, partisanship, small business, education, energy and incarceration rates. The combination of their passion, their stories, and our ability to visit with them and report on their issues in-depth made for an Embed project that covered many pressing topics left off the campaign trail. But we're not done! Let us know what’s on your mind this election year. Share your stories and concerns with iReport, and you could be part of CNN’s continuing election coverage.


- Post written by CNN Radio Associate Producer Emma Lacey-Bordeaux

August 21, 2012
Click to view JannetWalsh's profile

It was so exciting to have CNN Radio in Murdock, Minn.  We are the real America, tiny but voices can still be heard from remote locations.

August 22, 2012
Click to view k3vsDad's profile

Very nice report. Congrats to those involved with the project.

August 28, 2012
Click to view amyrocke's profile

Tonight on my way home from graduate school I phoned my mom, as I do every week, to let her know I was safe and in the car, out of one of the sketchiest areas of Springfield. It's a nice, unsaid thing that if I didn't call, she'd be worried enough to take action and alert someone that I was perhaps in trouble. This is not what this commentary is about, so I already digress...


When I asked what she was doing she responded that she was watching the Republican National Convention and without thinking, or free willingly I should say, I blurted out "WHY?" I told her that on my political poll that I participate in, the majority pf participants from all 50 states were also watching some part of either party's convention.


I am not watching-or actively participating-, and somewhere in my anger and disgust of the current campaign, I feel ashamed, because I know our democracy is set up for me TO be participating. But, I'm not not watching out of ignorance, or being uneducated. I'm making a conscious choice not to because I simply have no interest in what either party has to say. As our conversation continued, I told my mom that right now, as someone who contemplated majoring in political science during undergrad, I am so put off by the waste and celebritization surrounding the campaigns that I don't want anything to do with it.


I want to be clear that I completely respect others' opinions and embrace their desire to participate. I would never have considered myself to be someone who wouldn't vote during an election (and trust me, I will--I don't care if it's for Mickey Mouse), but  I can't bare to say I support either candidate. Do I support one party  over another? Yes, absolutely, BUT, why, after all this money has been spent and all this trash talk talked, should I believe a word out of either candidate's mouth? If I listen to Ann Romney tonight, is that really going to sway my vote toward Mitt? No. Everything she is saying is a load of crap. As is, I believe, the democrats side, as well. They say what we want to hear, blah blah blah.


As we all know and some of us feel, it's a double edged sword. The people we want to hearthe people we WANT governing our states and countryare those that CAN'T be heard because they don't have enough 1) power and 2) money, which essentially equal each other. So then how, one asks, do we avoid the waste and celebritization if those who deserve seats can't get it without the wealth and power?


Being just a small mind in the American countryside, I have no answer. I am no political analyst or theorist. I'm just a twenty-seven year old, "once was interested", who feels burned out by the same old rat race our election process has become. AND, may I say, it's sad to think that our votes really don't even count because of the electoral college, which is super frustrating because all of those citizens who jump on the "get out and vote" celebrity PSAs likely don't even know what the electoral college IS. Otherwise, they wouldn't be bandwagoning in the first place, they would either be intentionally abstaining OR making an independent educated decision.



I HATE hating politics. I wish that I had more faith and trust in those who we've been given the option to vote. It's not even about two men. It's about the road to politicianism and where it leads. I am sure it starts in a green pasture, full of good intention, moving slowly toward the trenches. That my friends, is where this ends.


With that being said, I hope you've enjoyed, or at least have gotten your mind going, reading my commentary.

September 18, 2012
Click to view doerting's profile

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