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The horrific murder last month of four students in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt galvanised dozens of iReporters to demand action from authorities -- and to call on CNN to cover the story.
The four men, who studied at the University of Port Harcourt, were caught up in a frenzy of violence in circumstances that remain unclear.
It is thought one of them may have been trying to collect a debt, however, word somehow spread that the men were thieves.
In response, a mob beat and dragged the men through the city’s streets, before setting them on fire.
The men’s murders were captured in graphic footage on at least one cell phone and disseminated widely through social media networks.
Soon, appalled Nigerians were sending the video in to iReport, imploring CNN to cover the story.
“After watching the video of the lynching of those students, I was completely terrified,” said iReporter Oladayo Oladimeji Sadiku, originally from the Nigerian city of Lagos but now living in Germany.
“I couldn't just keep quiet and I felt I had to do something by raising awareness.”
Although it was not the first time such a terrible crime had happened in the country and nor was it the first time such videos had been seen, the sheer brutality of the crime against the young men, now known as the Aluu Four, sparked condemnation in Nigeria and beyond.
Such killings in Nigeria are often described as “jungle justice”, and some iReporters said they were ashamed that such acts were the face of "justice" in their country.
“To be frank, I wept,” said iReporter Ogechukwu Nna, a student in Lagos. “They are people's brothers. I have lots of friends at the University of Port Harcourt and every one of them I called said the same thing: ‘Those boys were innocent’.”
Many iReporters expressed anger that little had been done to protect the men by those in positions of authority who had the power to intercede.
Oladokun Olanrewaju, an IT consultant from Lagos, said the government must take stringent measures to stop “this crazy public menace”:
“First, the government should enact strict laws to punish those guilty of illegal killings. Secondly, there should be a nationwide sensitization campaigns to re-orientate the people against such acts and leave justice to the judiciary,” he said. “Lastly, the police should wake up to their duty in protecting the lives of the people.”
iReporter Sandra Sopuluchukwu Ezekwesili said she shared the video in the hope that it would galvanise Nigerians from all areas of society to act against such brutal murders.
“I spoke out because I felt if the world knew what the order of the day was, maybe our security and justice system will sit up,” she said. “Maybe it will sow the seed of remorse in the hearts of Nigerians and further deter them from taking laws into their hands.”
Nigerian police have since arrested and charged 13 people in relation to the case, and online petitions calling for justice have circulated online.
Thanks to some determined iReporters, the tragic story of the Aluu Four -- and the fight for justice -- has reached a global audience.
There are quite a few aspiring journalists honing their skills on iReport. We caught up with five iReporters who have turned their journalistic dreams into a career in journalism.
Kyle Aevermann has been a constant presence on iReport since 2008, discussing his thoughts on everything from “American Idol" to one of his favorite annual events, Black Friday. This year, he took on a role as weekend anchor, reporter and morning producer for KOBI-TV in Medford, Oregon.
“I think that being part of iReport really helped me shape my philosophy as a journalist,” he said. “I want to use my position to give people a voice.”
Katy Brown joined the team at WCHS/WVAH-TV in Charleston, West Virginia, in just the past few months and she's already on air. Describing herself as a “one-man band,” she’s responsible for being the photographer, reporter, editor and writer for all her stories.
She credited her time on iReport with developing a very specific skill set.
“When I was iReporting, I was watching debates and speeches for the 2008 election. I trained my ear for things that didn't seem right or were just odd. I would then take off from there, researching or voicing my opinion on whatever caught my ear. Now, I do the same thing. I listen really close to interviews and sometimes catch things that maybe I wasn't supposed to or no one else caught.”
Ashley Porter made a big impression right away on iReport with stories from the Boston area, such as the star-studded “Hasty Pudding” event and the Boston Marathon.
It wasn’t long before she was working in local markets like West Palm Beach, Florida, and Austin, Texas. She’s currently a multimedia journalist at WTSP-TV in Tampa, Florida.
“In college, iReport was what inspired me to dig for stories about people making a difference,” she said, referring to her iReport about a man walking across the U.S. gathering peoples’ messages for then-President-elect Obama. "I never thought about using those stories to get my first job out of college, but I put them in a portfolio and, thankfully, it worked.”
Chris Soriano caught our attention with his very first iReport: a video poem in honor of the movie “Moneyball.” The San Diego resident went on to report for KYMA-TV in Yuma, Arizona, starting less than a week after he attended the 2012 iReport Awards in June. (He is now a weekend anchor.)
“I learned that the vital component about being a reporter is throwing yourself in the story and overcoming your fears of what others might think,” he said.
“I was a shy person when I first started as an iReporter. I was afraid of what people might think as they passed me by on the street as I'm filming myself doing a story, but the more I did it, the more the confidence it built inside me.
“iReport gave me an outlet to measure my work through view counts and comments, beyond my inner-circle of friends and colleagues,” she said. “And while not all of my iReports were popular or received positive feedback, that only helped me grow the thick skin needed to survive the broadcast world.”
We’re tremendously proud to have contributed – if only in a small way – to the new careers of these reporters.
Have you been able to apply your experience with iReport to your own career? Let us know in the comments.
Last week, I had the opportunity to shadow the production crew of HLN’s Morning Express with Robin Meade. While there, I was able to learn from producers and writers on the show, listen in from the control room and even meet the anchor, Robin Meade.
Starting my day out with HLN was a whirlwind of excitement; I could hardly sleep the night before because I was so anxious to see how the show is put together and how they use stories from iReporters in the show.
When I arrived, I found out that the morning show team gives new meaning to the words “starting your day bright and early” by getting in at 2:30 a.m. followed by a rundown meeting at 3 a.m. of interesting news topics. On this particular day, the team’s focus was covering the scandal surrounding former CIA Director David Petraeus, honoring service members for Veterans Day and making sense of the fiscal cliff.
HLN and especially Morning Express focuses on telling the stories of people who are affected by the news, so it makes sense that they love to use iReports.
On the day that I was there they featured Christine O’Connor’s iReport video of her three year old son, Corbin, singing the national anthem for Veterans Day. Morning Express also places a huge emphasis on our country’s military, celebrating troops with a daily shout-out that usually comes from the Salute to Troops assignment.
The show often partners with iReport to create assignments that their viewers can relate to and can have fun with, like the battle of the marching bands assignment that recently ended.
The newest Morning Express assignment is a call-out for holiday sing-a-longs. They're looking for original video of church choirs, glee clubs and other musical groups belting out holiday music. The show will be airing submissions to that assignment every Friday in the month of December!
Be sure to join the Morning Express assignment group to get up to date information on what the show is looking for.
We've seen literally thousands of comments and social media posts about the tangled web of former CIA Director David Petraeus' career-ending affair. Readers are talking about politics, the timing of Petraeus' announcement and possible long-term impact. But an especially popular theme that keeps coming up is fidelity and faithfulness, to which some readers say they can relate all too well.
So we posted a survey on Facebook asking readers where that line of unfaithfulness begins. Is it fantasizing, flirting, communicating online, hugging, kissing or having sex? We received more than 2,000 answers to our unscientific poll, and as of 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, the majority of respondents said one may stray without ever making physical contact. About 47% of readers said unfaithfulness can begin when people are sending e-mails and texts without their partner's knowledge.
"I think it is the sneaking and lying that make it infidelity as much as the sex," explained commenter Jean Timmels. Another reader, Tess Gipson, said, "When the relationship has to be kept secret from your partner it is wrong. Otherwise you could bring the person in and sit them down in the living room and visit like a friend!"
Drawing the line at sex was the second most popular choice, but it only got 20% overall.
"Kissing, per se, is meaningless," wrote Michael Wilson.
Indeed, other forms of touch like kissing (13%) and hugging (less than 1%) were picked even less often. Some drew the line at flirtatious behavior (11%). We also heard from a few readers about fantasizing, which garnered the most comments but only 8% of the survey votes. Overall, readers seemed to place a lot of power in the mental aspect of love.
"It starts when you are thinking about it," said Belinda Lipscomb. "Because where your thoughts go, your actions will soon follow."
Where do you think unfaithfulness begins? How do you feel about the Petraeus affair? Please share your thoughts in the comments area below or sound off on video.
One. Two. Three. Imagine the future of the GOP.
We recently tried an experiment to find out what readers think about the post-election political world. Since a lot of that conversation was happening in the comments sections across CNN.com, we decided to focus our efforts there.
Several CNN iReport staffers started jumping right into the comments sections, typing out questions about what President Obama should do and the meaning of liberalism. Readers posted dozens of responses to those questions, and this one as well: “What should the GOP do right now?” We asked the readers to follow a structured list, and they did. Having that consistent format among the responses allowed us to produce a story culling together 10 of the best posts.
We were impressed with readers’ thoughtfulness. “Focus on true conservative values” was one of the three suggestions for the GOP listed by CNN.com reader WazzaMatta4U. SRM2012 suggested that Republicans “engage young African Americans and Latinos.”
The story also inspired some commenters to respond by listing their wishes for what the Democratic Party should do next, like this item from user SaneReason: “Bask in the reflected glory of your recent presidential victory, but recognize the number of Americans that feel differently.”
This is part of our new effort to connect the CNN.com commenting community with CNN iReport, bringing together two worlds of discussion that have, until now, always been pretty separate. Comments on news stories have traditionally had a rough-and-tumble reputation, but we are quite often blown away by readers’ thoughtfulness. We hope to try new projects like this in the future, and we’d love to hear what you think.
Please share your thoughts and suggestions on bringing your voices into CNN’s coverage in the comments section below (you can put them in a list format if you’d like). We encourage you to Sound Off on video as well.
The Northeast has been hit hard by weather in the last couple weeks. Superstorm Sandy brought flooding, destruction and power loss, and just as cleanup was beginning, a nor'easter cooled temperatures to freezing and dumped a fresh batch of snow over the region.
New York was one of the hardest hit areas in the storms. But amongst the devastation, iReporters found moments of beauty and strength. Here are a few of their most stunning images:
Edgar Alan Zeta Yap, who's visiting New York from the Philippines, was delighted to see the snow and documented it around Manhattan. "I immediately rushed outside with my camera to capture some images, and as the snowfall got heavier, I ended up walking from [the] Upper East Side, down Fifth Avenue, to Times Square, taking snapshots of the snow bearing down on people and blanketing the streets," he said.
Also visiting New York, Jonathan Albizures of Atlanta had mixed feelings when he saw the snow. "I was excited to see the snow but at the same time, I felt bad because it complicated the situation with the storm," he said. He snapped this photo of people walking through Times Square.
Lower Manhattan, including the new One World Trade Center (at left, under construction), is seen from snowy Jersey City. Pankaj Purohit shot this and other photos of the snow blanketing his city.
Snow flurries hit the Bronx's Van Cortlandt Park. "This is making the destruction from Sandy take a step back," said Beth Alice Barret, a New Yorker who shot photos around the city. "The snow is wet and brings undesired weight to the already bowed trees."
Columbia University students in upper Manhattan brave the snow on their campus in this photo by Roshen Weliwatta.
If you're in the Northeast and can do so safely, show us how the severe weather is affecting you.
We thought we'd follow in their footsteps with our own set of five learnings after completing the nationwide "I Voted" iReport challenge. You shared more than 2,700 "I Voted" stickers and other voter artifacts from all 50 states - congratulations!
Here's what we learned from your submissions, from serious to silly:
1. Oregonians vote by mail
Did you know that Oregon doesn't have precincts and voting machines? Residents there can only vote via mail or by dropping their ballot off at designated libraries and offices. Oregonian iReporter Emily Erwin shared a photo of herself sending in her ballot on Election Day. The downside to mail-in ballots? "I don't have a sticker to show off," she said.
2. Georgia's sticker stands out from the rest
Here in Atlanta, we're definitely fans of the "I'm a Georgia Voter" sticker with its pretty peach background. But besides being symbolic of the peach state, it's also the only "I Voted" sticker we saw that didn't feature red or blue. Here's to standing out from the crowd!
3. It's a hipster civic duty to post your sticker on Instagram
We know where all the cool kids were on Election Day. Seriously, look at you guys. Instagram was flooded with photos of voters proudly sporting their stickers (we'll admit, we did it too). We invited you to share yours via the hashtag #ivotedcnn and received more than 2,000 photos.
4. Not everyone gets a sticker after they vote
It's tragic, really. But voters in New York, New Jersey and Oregon - along with many people who voted absentee, voted early, or whose precincts couldn't afford stickers or ran out - didn't get stickers after casting their ballots. We thought that was very sad, so we created a lovely printable sticker for all you voters who didn't get one to show your pride. And some of you even designed your own!
5. You bring your kids to vote
Some parents wanted to teach their kids about the democratic process, others just couldn't find child care. But whatever the reason, many of you with kids brought them along to the polling place. "Taking children to the polls is important, even though there's sometimes a wait," said Lucy Tyler, whose daughter is in the pink shirt above. She stood in line for three hours to vote in Alexandria, Virginia. Still, she says, "it's important for them to understand the meaning of election day at a young age." And, of course, nobody loves to wear the "I Voted" stickers more than kids!
Didn't share your sticker yet? What are you waiting for?! Add it to our collection and view all the others here.
If you’ve been watching CNN’s coverage of Superstorm Sandy during the past week, you know that iReporters have played a major role in helping us cover the storm and its devastating aftermath. That’s why CNN/U.S. is devoting a special half-hour segment exclusively to iReport tomorrow afternoon.
CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield and Josh Levs will show off the best iReport photos, videos and stories from Sandy, and share what makes iReporters’ eyewitness accounts so important when covering major news stories. Levs will also share viewer comments from Facebook and Twitter during the show. You can tune in tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. ET to see which iReports made the cut and continue to follow the latest approved photos and videos from the storm on our Open Story.
A big, heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been part of our ongoing Sandy coverage. We’re wishing you all the best as recovery continues.
For those who missed the special, here it is in four parts:
One day back in March, Denise Larsen decided to shoot video of her eight-year-old son, Tristan, so he could ask a question on the CNN iReport interview, a chance for iReporters to interview newsmakers, athletes and celebrities.
Much to her delight, Tristan's question -- "Can you come to my birthday on May 10?" -- was answered by the popular NFL quarterback.
Brees sadly couldn't make it to the party, but he recognized Tristan as a big fan.
"We've gotta get you to a Saints game," Brees said. "You look like one of those great Saints fans, who would be a good luck charm for us. We'll find a way to get you to a game. It'll be my birthday present to you."
Seven months later, this past Sunday night, Tristan finally got to redeem Brees' offer and see his hero in action.
As Tristan told his mother, "Our seats were great -- up high but a perfect view from the end zone of the whole field."
Tristan also got to see Brees warming up on the field as he entered the stadium, a special highlight.
Although the Saints lost to his home team Denver Broncos 34-14, Tristan said he was not upset, because "I won... big time."
Check out a video slideshow of Tristan's big day below. And you can see more iReport Interviews here.
It all started with "Ba-rack, Ba-rack Obama" and "Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, put your flags up, put your flags up."
Greg Reese made his name by rapping about all of the presidential and vice presidential candidates four years ago. Now other iReporters have gotten in on the act by busting rhymes about both sides in the presidential race. The reasons for the videos are as varied as the many issues we've heard about during the iReport debate.
Los Angeles resident Luke Caldwell burst onto the scene back in August, for a rap video shot in the nation’s capital - a full-throated endorsement for presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“Our country needs restoration,” he told us at the time. “I'm very interested in being pivotal in expressing it in a way the youth will find interesting.”
Then, we had an “October surprise” as Obama supporter Reese decided to continue his streak with a very energetic rap performance about Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan.
The self-described independent from Cincinnati said, “This was a simple, silly ABC style rap that touched on some of the Romney team accomplishments. The clear message is the team is about something, not just negative things, but I would hope that voters do their research and vote for their family.” (True to form, Reese did a rap video for Obama as well.)
On the other side of the coin, Chad Lewine from New York was convinced after seeing the polls that his fellow Obama supporters needed some encouragement, so he put together his own rap video, with a positive, pro-voting message.
“Most ‘average’ citizens don't love reading text or listening to speeches, but most of us love listening to music and watching fun videos,” he said.
“So, a melody and some lyrics popped into my head one day. I wrote them down and started working on the song. it took me about 3 weeks to make it perfect.”
One of those fellow Obama supporters, Brad Turner from Bloomington, Illinois, had a decidedly different take with his video. He wanted to reach out to undecided voters, with a song taking on the feel of a campaign rally.
“We want the viewer to see see white, black, brown, young and old people coming together to fight for the President,” he explained.
“No matter who watches it, they can see someone like them in it.”