Wednesday, February 20, 2013
How to get a byline on

You might have noticed something really cool happening lately: Three iReporters have had bylined opinion pieces on!


iReport's focus has primarily been on photos and videos, but earlier this year, we started to receive some insightful, well-written essay submissions, too. First was Deborah Mitchell's compellingly titled "Why I raise my children without God," which soon became the most-viewed iReport of all-time. It was so good, in fact, that we did something we’ve never done before – we decided to run it on CNN’s Belief blog, where it received more than 1,600 comments. Last week, Richard Lucas penned a beautifully-written testimony about anxiety that ran that on as well. And just yesterday, veteran iReporter Cynthia Falardeau published a fantastic piece on the Oscar Pistorius saga.


We’re thrilled to be able to show off iReporters' writing talents and thoughtful insights on, and so proud of the iReporters who have earned bylines so far. We'd really like to see more of your personal essays and opinion pieces, so we've created this assignment to collect all your essay submissions, with the hope of running the best ones on CNN. Of course, writing a piece like this is often highly personal and can be difficult, so here are some tips to get you started if you'd like to give it a shot:


Pick the right topic. When you’re writing a commentary, opinion piece, or personal testimony, think about your passions. You need to feel strongly about what you’re writing and believe in your words. If you’re not engaged in the topic, pick a new one, because you don’t stand a chance of engaging your reader. If your subject is in the news at the moment, that’s great, but it doesn’t have to be if it’s compelling enough. Deborah Mitchell's piece on religion didn’t have a news peg, but it was something that she felt strongly about, and that passion came through.


Make it personal. You know the saying "write what you know?" It’s especially applicable here. When you’re thinking about essay topics, pick something that you can bring a unique perspective to, or something that you have expertise on. As someone living with panic disorder for five years, Richard Lucas could speak about it with authority. And Cynthia Falardeau brought a fresh angle to the Pistorius story by talking about her experiences with her son, who is also an amputee.


Show, don’t tell. One strong anecdote makes a point better than a paragraph full of generalizations. Be specific and try to avoid cliches. In Falardeau's article, she tells us a story about meeting a man at her gym that hammers home the thesis of her piece in an instant.


Let your voice shine. Imagine you're telling your story to a friend. Then write it using those words and that tone. Your piece should feel conversational, like you’re just chatting with the reader. Don't try to be formal or use words plucked from a thesaurus. It's your story, so tell it in your own voice. You can even try reading your piece out loud to yourself. If it doesn't sound like you, then try again.


Don’t marry your text. This one might be the most difficult of all, and as writers, we empathize completely. But you're going to have to edit your piece. You may really love that one little side note you included, or how you phrased a particular point, but if it doesn't support your thesis or move your story along, it has to go. Try to keep your piece to 1,000 words or less – you can say almost anything in that amount of space, trust us. And know that, if we decide to run your story on, we'll make some edits ourselves. We'll work with you and make sure we keep the meaning of your piece intact, but if we brutally slash something that you loved, know that it's not a commentary on you – we just want to make your story the best it can be for when it hits the big time.


Excited? So are we. Get typing and share your pieces on our essay assignment. And leave any writing/editing questions in the comments – we'll do our best to answer them.

February 20, 2013
Click to view k3vsDad's profile

Sounds like a great innovation. Cheers to those who have already seen their by-line on!

February 21, 2013
Click to view katie's profile

indeed, k3vsDad! Looking forward to seeing some essays from you in the future!

February 22, 2013
Click to view ekkekkorecor's profile

Great idea

February 22, 2013
Click to view markpel's profile

Ireport has not been only photos and videos; It has been also always writing... I like more creative writing; no more school and home works. This time is by me already over. Have a great weekend!

February 22, 2013
Click to view rachel8's profile

@markpel You're right, we have always accepted written submissions - but the quality has improved recently, so we're trying to show them off and encourage more. ;)

February 22, 2013
Click to view KCRep's profile

This is a great idea.  I've always preferred ready stories over videos because for me they sink in better.  I hope you saw my written report about something I went through as a child.  Have a great weekend. 

February 22, 2013
Click to view KCRep's profile

oops, I meant "reading" not ready.

February 25, 2013
Click to view Sherbien's profile

Cool. This is interesting. I will try too make one personal essay on 'why we climb'

February 25, 2013
Click to view meelah101's profile


  thanks for the tips...and the encouragement...

February 26, 2013
Click to view enduran's profile


March 5, 2013
Click to view MelissaF's profile

This is awesome.  I have submitted several written pieces over the last 4 years, but there was never really a place for them.  So excited to see things progressing with iReport.

March 6, 2013
Click to view Racheld4's profile

I would love CNN to share our story with as many people as possible. How many other day care issues are there on military installations across the United States and over seas. This is my story about my son. Please save this link and post it so that he can bring awareness and save the lives of other children.   Investigative reports "justice for Sonny".


Forever heartbroken,

Santino's Parentsg

March 20, 2013
Click to view acardenas13's profile

Dear CNN iReport Team,


Please forward instructions or guidelines, in order to be able to use my email.


Many thanks in advance, very truly yours



November 24, 2015
Click to view umaircnn's profile

Dear CNN iReport Team,

Please forward instructions or guidelines, in order to be able to use my email.

November 26, 2015
Click to view GlaamaGeek's profile



Today I watched a story on Rachael Ray (A Fighting Chance) portraying how Khali Sweeny, a Black man who first turned his life around, then proceeded to turn around the lives of many young Black men by teaching them how to box.  When I saw this story, a light went off in my head because immediately before I watched this segment, I watched the video of Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by the police and murdered in the streets like an animal.

What I realized is that young black men like Laquan McDonald, usually have one thing in common:  They lack positive male role models.  In addition, I realized that Black ex-convicts who have paid their debt to society and turned their lives around, can have a really hard time finding jobs.  So I thought about these problems and came up with an idea:  Why not create a National Mentoring program and hire reformed ex-convicts as U.S. Government employees? Then structure their salary so that it’s 100% equal to what police salaries?  If these mentors were paid as much as police, the U.S. Government would be able to save money on how many police are needed to police inner cities.  I mean, think about every successful mentoring program for inner-city youths.  Most of them were founded by people who had problems in their youth.  And think about the number of young people whose lives have been impacted by these mentors.  (The numbers have GOT to be in the hundreds, if not thousands. And that’s not even counting the friends of these youths who have changed their ways by seeing the positive change in their friends.) Now, think about the impact of one bad cop on our country.  My rough guesstimate for a bad cop’s annual salary is around $50,000.  I can’t help but to wonder how much better spent that $50,000 would be if it actually HELPED the problem, instead of HURTING the problem.  Also, imagine how many lives would be saved by good mentors instead of cut-short by power-drunk police?

I can only imagine the impact a National Mentoring program would have on lowering the high rate of ex-convict recidivism.  In my opinion, such a program would kill two birds with one stone because it would: 1) minimize the negative impact which bad cops have on inner-city communities, and 2) contribute to the National “prison reform” agenda by providing viable jobs to ex-convicts who face so much opposition trying to turn their lives around.  Just as every police force in the U.S. screens applicants with intensive interviews and the need to successfully complete training at a police academy, so too could a mentoring program have an intensive screening and training process.

I have a nephew who illustrates my point.  He’s never done drugs.  He’s never sold drugs.  He’s never so much as pulled a hair off of anyone’s head.  He’s now a 40 year-old man who got caught up with negative influences as a 15 year-old, then spent over 23 years in and out of jail (mostly in) because of one petty crime (car theft).   He was repeatedly returned to prison because of parole violations such as expired tags on a car which I bought him, and an argument with a White woman over a parking space.  The tags were expired because since he didn’t have a job, he couldn’t afford to renew the registration.  When he finally found a job, he was on his way to work on his first day and was stopped by the police. This infraction was considered his “Second Strike.”  And because he lived in Los Angeles under the jurisdiction of California’s 3-strikes law, that argument over a parking space was considered his “Third Strike” and netted him 12 years straight in jail.  During that stint, he was beaten to within an inch of his life by other prisoners and had his skull cracked open.

My nephew has now been out of jail for 3 years, has gotten married and has had a little baby.  Although he remains his positive and happy self, due to his past, he constantly faces insurmountable difficulties finding gainful employment. 

As a professional mature Black woman, it hurts me deeply to see the lives of so many Black men wasted either by affiliation with gangs, or by the bullets of police, or at the discretion of the judiciary system (which to me, are all one in the same because DEAD IS DEAD!!!).  Nevertheless, because I am an optimist, I prefer to think about those things which might provide solutions, instead of moaning about how bad the problems are.  Hence, this essay is just my two cents and is an idea which I truly hope someone in our Government gives some serious consideration to.  What we do know is as a country, we cannot continue to do things the same way and expect a different outcome.  After all, isn’t that the definition of insanity???

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