Blog : December 2012
Guiding the conversation: Shooting prompts divergent responses »

There’s something special happening on iReport right now.


In the hours and days after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, which left 20 schoolchildren and 6 teachers and administrators dead, I, like many others, found myself unable to fully process my feelings as I watched the story unfold.


One of our most important roles on the iReport team is to spark conversation among our audience around news events, and we often look for specific angles or calls-to-action to explore with the CNN community. Immediately following the Newtown shooting, though, there was no need to start a conversation – hundreds of CNN readers and viewers promptly began flooding our site with their reactions to the incident. Some wanted to talk about mental health care, while others were interested in the shooter’s motives.


So, we listened to our audience and created a place for people to discuss whatever they wanted to. More than 1,500 iReport stories poured in, in addition to more commenters on Sandy Hook articles than for any other story this year on


A few days later – as people began to process their feelings – we discovered, not surprisingly, that the most powerful content we were getting were the personal tributes, children’s letters and private memorials that families around the world were making to make sense of their grief. We started an interactive gallery we call an Open Story to showcase those, a powerful example of crowdsourcing that was one of the top stories on the homepage yesterday.


At the same time, we knew there was an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation among gun owners. We invited owners of firearms banned under the now-expired federal weapons ban to join in the discussion, too. More than 100 gun enthusiasts have shared their thoughts on gun ownership and whether stricter gun control laws are the answer.


The image above and photo at the top of this post, both of which we received yesterday, represent how starkly different and powerful those two topics are. It's a huge testament to CNN’s community that people moved to create memorials and people who feel passionately about firearms have been able to coexist peacefully on our site yesterday and hold meaningful conversations in the comments.


Within both groups, we’ve seen interesting, smart, poignant stories and discussions emerge. A story that’s as incomprehensible and heartbreaking as Sandy Hook often leads to angry, emotional conversations (as I’ve seen far too often on Facebook threads this week). But I've been heartened to see two groups of people – those who are grieving and creating tributes to the victims and those who are willing and eager to share their thoughts on gun ownership – who are able to coexist thanks to the fact that we’ve carefully guided those conversations and given them a safe, respectful forum to do so.


As the Sandy Hook coverage continues and the debates undoubtedly carry on, I look forward to seeing what topics we explore with our community next.

Posted by: katie // December 20, 2012
 44 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community
The hoax that brought NASA to CNN iReport  »

space photo


The headline was alarming, and the story of a Texas-sized asteroid on a collision course with Earth would have been absolutely terrifying – if it wasn’t absolute nonsense.


An iReport posted recently claimed that the Nibiru asteroid would slam into the Earth and used a fake news article as evidence. CNN producers quickly dismissed the story, but that didn’t stop it from being recommended more than 10,000 times on Facebook. In case you’re new to iReport, all iReports are user-submitted, and have the words "NOT VETTED BY CNN" stamped across the top until someone at CNN talks to the submitter and confirms the information (you can learn more on our About page. Because this story was so popular, we decided to add an additional note that it was not confirmed by CNN and provided a link to additional information.


Most of the people who commented on the story didn't seem too worried about it. Some made jokes, while others did their own detective work and declared it a hoax.


iReporter balefire97 said folks just need to relax:


"Being born in 1979, this will be the 49th doomsday I have lived through. If memory serves me right, the last 48 weren’t very memorable, nor accurate, but that may go without saying, so I predict this one is going to be equally uninteresting and equally false. Tinfoil hats for everyone!" he wrote.


NASA saw it too, and they weren't thrilled. They've been pretty busy knocking down various "end of the world prophesies" in the months leading up to the Mayan Apocalypse. Some people believe it is coming on December 21, because that's when the end of the 5,126-year cycle on the Maya's Long Count calendar.


We talked with the senior editor of the NASA website (who used to work here at CNN) and encouraged him to participate in the conversation, so that the thousands of people who were going to iReport would also be able to the real story. He agreed and created the NASAWeb iReport account.


He said the story was "absolutely false" and that "if Nibiru were real and headed for Earth, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade." He also said that if it Nibiru was about to hit the Earth it would be visible to the naked eye, so you'd be able to see it for yourself. You can read more about Niribu and other apocalypse hoaxes on the NASA website.


We are always looking for space stories here at CNN iReport, so if you're an amateur astronomer we'd love for you to share your (true) stories with us. In the meantime, we've got our fingers crossed that NASAWeb will hook us up with some future astronauts or give us the Mars Curiosity rover's phone number.

Posted by:
// December 1, 2012
 17 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: stories
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