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The recipients of the 3rd Annual iReport Awards have been announced!
We've said it before, but one more time won’t hurt: The overall quality of photography, videography and storytelling represented in this year’s iReport Awards was outstanding. Citizen journalism has come a long way since CNN iReport’s humble beginnings in 2006, and the Award recipients are a wonderful testament to that.
Without further ado, here they are:
Breaking news: Hasan Amin, Egyptian revolution rages on
Original reporting: Nicolas Rossier, One breath: Story of a free diver
Commentary: Richard Huffman, My tribute to those lost in Newtown
Compelling Imagery: Judy Starkman, Secret lives of swimmers
Personal Story: Sam Wessels, I speak about autism because I can
In-depth Storytelling: Carlos Chiossone, Superstorm Sandy stories
Community Choice: Erik Olsen, The shoe cobbler
That’s not all!
For the first time ever, we revealed honorees in a new category called Excellence on the Web. These are six examples of the best in citizen journalism outside of iReport in 2012, and we couldn’t be prouder to honor such impressive examples of participatory journalism.
You may wonder why we’d honor stories outside of iReport: A big responsibility of the iReport team is listening to the conversations and stories that take place on and outside of CNN iReport. We’re curators at heart, and this new category allows us to share even more incredible examples of participatory storytelling with the world. Plus, no other major news outlet is recognizing excellence in citizen journalism in this way.
Here are the honorees: (Go here to read more about each entry.)
Humans of New York: Hurricane Sandy: Brandon Stanton, Tumblr
SyrianDeveloper: Mike Blackhatoviche, Instagram
Wright's Law: Zach Conkle, Vimeo
@aiww: Ai Weiwei, Twitter
San Diego fireworks, loud and up close: Dan W. Roy, YouTube
Jersey Shore Hurricane News: Justin Auciello, Facebook
Last but not least, we are thrilled to announce the 3rd Annual iReport Awards Spirit Honorees. These six honored iReporters – Jannet Walsh, Misael Rincón, Rachel Cauvin, Jim Jorstad, Lia Ocampo and Jim Brenneman – are wonderful members of our community, sharing stories that resonate with a wide audience and taking the time to make CNN iReport such a warm and special place. They’re the folks that make running this site such a fulfilling experience, and we couldn’t thank them enough!
Congratulations to all of the recipients and honorees. We are so impressed with all of you and are already eager to do it again next year. We’re nerds for citizen journalism – it’s true.
Now we're off to sneak a celebratory bottle of champagne into the newsroom. Cheers to you all!
You hear so much about kids with autism, but adults on the spectrum have their own struggles, and the workplace can be one of them. After we received two iReports on this topic, we decided to pursue it further.
So, on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET, the last day of Autism Awareness Month, we will be holding a roundtable chat on CNN’s Facebook page on autism and Asperger’s in the workplace. iReporters and experts will be taking your questions and sharing their experiences in a discussion on this subject and the challenges they’ve seen. We'd also like to hear about your views and experiences as well.
Joining us will be Dave Wellman of Myriad Genetics, who has worked with and managed employees with Asperger's syndrome; Becky Ketts of Nobis Works - which provides job training for those with disabilities and other barriers; and iReporter Sarah Still, who recently iReported on her personal challenges with Asperger's.
We hope to hear from you tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. on CNN’s Facebook and look forward to your contributions to our discussion!
We like to give a virtual toast whenever one of our contributors hits 1 million page views. This time, we're proud to honor Omekongo Dibinga, a two-time iReport Award nominee and master pundit.
Besides being a motivational speaker and spoken-word performer, he is a social activist, married with two daughters — a recent iReport talks about how he and his wife balance their personal dreams with their daughters' needs -- a PhD student at the University of Maryland (his dissertation is "an intellectual history of Jay-Z"), as well as a faithful iReport cheerleader. He is also a teaching assistant at Georgetown University for Michael Eric Dyson's very popular sociology class devoted to Jay Z ( “Sociology of Hip-Hop — Urban Theodicy of Jay-Z").
Dibinga has taken a hard look at his own feelings toward women and shared his thoughts on President Obama's 2012 DNC speech at the convention itself, to name only a few of his most memorable moments in iReport punditry. He's even weighed in on another of his passions, comic books, from time to time.
Dibinga is currently nominated for an iReport Award in the Commentary category for his feelings about the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse case (view below).
So here's to one of our top iReport pundits, and here's to one million more to come!
The iReport Awards are back and they are better than ever!
We are bursting with pride about the quality of the 3rd Annual iReport Awards finalists. From Sam Wessels – a 10-year-old boy who opened up about what it’s like to live with autism -- to Femi Green-Adebo, a Nigerian photographer who ran to the scene of a fiery plane crash in his neighborhood -- the 36 nominees represent the best of CNN iReport: Raw, passionate and full of heart.
Many of the iReport Awards nominees had the courage to share eye-witness accounts in the aftermath of haunting experiences. Denver videographer Adam Witt was sitting in the Aurora, Colorado, theater when a gunman killed 12 people. He told us the experience left him with rippling emotional effects he hadn’t expected. Florida mother Jess Hathaway’s decisionto pull her boys from the Boy Scouts – and then tell CNN’s millions of readers about it -- was equally courageous in its own way.
The finalists include professional filmmakers and photographers who wanted to give their stories a world stage (like Navid Baraty, who shot the above photo of crowds in Times Square watching the Mars Rover landing), and first-time iReporters who had no idea what would happen after they clicked the upload button. Then there are the nominees in our new In-depth Storytelling category, who stayed with their stories for weeks and months, and in some cases, years.
We hope you’ll help us honor them by visiting the Awards site on a computer or tablet and voting for the story that moves you the most.
Our panel of judges will select a recipient for each category. But you get to decide who gets the Community Choice Award! Click on the iReport you feel most deserves it and vote once a day until May 6. You can vote for any of the 36 nominees in the six categories. Then check back May 14 to see the results.
Beyond voting, we hope you will join our community and share a story of your own. Your voice plays a crucial part in the stories CNN tells. We often use the term “citizen journalism,” but that doesn’t fully cover what CNN iReport is. At its core, it’s simply regular people sharing glimpses of their lives in their own words and pictures. Every day, we look for new ways to incorporate your voice into the stories CNN is covering.
You can start right here by visiting our assignment desk.
Who knows? Next year at this time, we might be honoring you in the 4th Annual iReport Awards.
For years we’ve talked about taking over the Assignment Desk on iReport for April Fools’ Day. This year, we finally decided to pull it off!
Our team spends a lot of time brainstorming to come up with strong assignments, so we decided to poke fun at ourselves by thinking about it the other way: How do we turn good assignments into bad ones?
While we got a chuckle out of the fake solicitations, we weren’t sure how the community would react. Funny enough, we got some real stories to our joke assignments. From the ugliest travel photos to your non-news stories, we were tickled by the anecdotes behind your stories.
iReporter Teresa Christensen sent in this photo of her then-teenaged sons on a stop in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The fact that their heads are cut off was no accident, she said. “We were in the Badlands! But they were so inconvenienced, their attitudes so impatient, and their faces had such dread and contempt that I figured the best shot would be from the shoulders down with the beautiful Badlands in the background.”
When I called iReporter Gabriel Dominise about his colorful sunrise photo on a cold day in Essex, United Kingdom, he had a lot of details about his non-story. The conversation that ensued was delightful:
“When I saw the stories about nothing to tell, I thought I have some pictures with no stories at all and I wanted to make use of those useless ones,” he said. Dominise explained he was standing on a cold platform waiting for a delayed train this winter when he captured this photo.
“It’s so gloomy and it looks like a sunset but it’s early morning. It was like a dead picture,” he said.
When asked what he thought of our no-story assignment, he said, “I was not expecting an assignment that asks if you have nothing to share. It’s unique. It’s interesting.”
It became apparent that our tomfoolery had worked, so I let Dominise in on the secret. He laughed when he realized it was a playful prank.
As for the ask a random guy at CNN a question assignment, we got quite the response when we posted it to our Facebook account. CNN's Jarrett Bellini was so bored, he actually answered some of the questions you sent!
Q: What exactly do you do? and do you enjoy being "the most unimportant person" at CNN?
A: I occupy a desk and occasionally walk around the newsroom with my coffee mug as though I'm meeting with people who matter. Being the most unimportant person at CNN is great. I can nap under my desk and literally nothing changes.
Q: Do you know why there were so many dead fish on the beach of Fort Lauderdale?
A: If you finally swam all the way to shore and suddenly found yourself in South Florida you'd probably kill yourself, too.
Q: How you doin'?
A: I have a canker sore. Otherwise, fine.
So to all of you who took part in our fun day of lighthearted humor: Thank you! iReport wouldn’t be the passionate, fun-loving community without you. Happy April Fools’ Day!
[Updated at 4:10 p.m. ET] Thanks for coming to the hangout! Here's the archives of the two parts of the discussion. Thanks to all who participated, and thanks to Wes Little for joining us as well.
[Updated at 2:59 p.m.] Welcome to the hangout!
TIP FOR BEST VIEWING: Keep this window open to comment, and view the stream in a separate window so you don't lose your place if you post. You can also send your questions via Twitter using the hashtag #timelapsecnn.
You’ve seen them all over iReport, television and social media –have you ever been curious about time-lapse videos? Ever thought about doing one of your own, but not sure where to start?
If so, we’ve got the roundtable for you. Please join us Tuesday, March 19, at 3 p.m. ET as CNN Digital video team’s Edythe McNamee and iReporter/time-lapse expert John Eklund share tips and answer your questions about this fascinating cinematic technique.
For the first time, we’ll host the roundtable via Google Hangout. Here’s how you can participate:
1. Submit questions ahead of time here in the comments, or on Twitter @cnnireport using the hashtag #timelapsecnn. Feel free to ask multiple questions – we’ll select some of the best ahead of time.
3. Come back to this page on Tuesday, March 19, at 3 p.m. ET, to join in the chat!Are you planning to join our Google Hangout? Looking forward to learning more about time-lapse? We hope you’ll be able to join us right here on Tuesday!
Each year, as International Women’s Day is honored, there are celebrations and commiserations, steps forward, and steps back, in improving the status of women worldwide.
The day, first honored in the early 1900s in Europe, has since grown to a global phenomenon, and remains the largest celebration of women across the world.
Statistically, progress for women in all walks of life remain sobering:
- At least one in three women will be abused in her lifetime, according to United Nations statistics
- Disparity in pay is problematic, with Europe alone experiencing a 16% disparity between men and women's pay.
- Women are not empowered, with only around 20% of the world's parliamentarians being women
But, all is not lost! To honor the day, iReport asked women around the world what their one wish would be for women. The results, from India to Italy, were inspiring, moving, and very forthright.
“Stand up for your dreams -- and stand up for each other.”
In India, where the horrific rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi last December sparked weeks of protests and much soul searching about the status of women in the nation, the messages were blunt -- be fearless, be audacious, and above all, be brave.
"Have the audacity. Stand up for your rights. Stand up for what you believe in,” said iReporter Meera Vijayann, a writer and NGO worker,who urged women to have the self-belief to aim high and to help others on the heady upward climb.
"Stand up for your dreams and stand up for each other. With just enough confidence, we can truly move mountains.
“Stop underestimating yourselves.”
The age-old dilemma (for women) of the work/life balance was very much her fellow Indian iReporter Sharmita Mandal’s mind. She exhorted women to aim high.
“My wish is for all the women who left a job, thinking they wouldn't be able to do justice to both work and managing family,” said the Bangalore based PR consultant.
“You will never know what you are capable of unless you reach the finish line," she said, specifically with working women in mind.
Fear and lack of confidence within women was also a big issue for Italian iReporter Martina Lunardelli.
“I wish for all the women and girls around the world to never fear,” she said, “and to continue struggling for our rights and our dreams."
"I wish you all courage and strength"
But Veronica Lon Pantaleon Mendoza, an English teacher from the Philippines, was more reflective in her wish wanting to reassure them there is support for women who have suffered, and survived, sexual or domestic violence.
“I wish you all courage and strength, and also understanding and support from the people surrounding those women with children and who are abused,” she said.
"Growing up safe"
Children were also on the mind of Patricia Mouamar from Beirut, Lebanon, who works for the charity World Vision.
“My wish for women around the globe is to know that their children will grow up in a safe and loving environment," she said.
"We are all in this together"
When Australian student Jessica Arvela spoke to her friends and family about what their wishes would be, one thing she noticed was that all their wishes were for basic human rights -- rights that they felt were not being met.
“My wish is for us to support each other every day, to realise we are all in this together, that we are all on the same team,” she said.
But Arveta ended her message on a hopeful note. “One day, these wishes will become granted!" she said.
You might have noticed something really cool happening lately: Three iReporters have had bylined opinion pieces on CNN.com!
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 CNN.com 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 CNN.com, 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 CNN.com, 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.
Calling all college and university students! We're looking for an intern to join our team at the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, this summer.
The full-time, paid internship lasts about 12 weeks and is open to college students currently enrolled in school. Course credit is available, and preference is given to candidates who have previously contributed to CNN iReport.
One lucky intern will work with iReport's editorial team, getting to know the worldwide iReport community. In addition to vetting iReports, writing stories, producing galleries, and joining in brainstorming and editorial planning, interns will also have the opportunity to learn from a host of CNN professionals in various departments.
Interested? Go here for more details and to formally apply. The deadline for applications is Friday, March 1.
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 CNN.com.
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 CNN.com 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.
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.
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.
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:
We won't be holding an iReport roundtable this month, as we're busy gearing up for Election Day. But while we're off, we'd love to hear your suggestions for future discussions.
What else would you like to learn? In what area do you want to hear feedback? Please share your ideas for other topics in the comments below.
Look for our next big roundtable in November, and check back soon for more information on what’s in store for Election Day!
We're sitting down with CNN's Candy Crowley to ask about her debate experience for a special edition of the iReport Interview later today. We asked you to share questions for Crowley and we appreciate the 250+ questions thus far!
Here are some of the questions we hope to ask in the interview:
-- As the first woman to moderate a presidential debate in two decades, what do you think are the challenges facing female journalists, especially those who cover politics?
-- Do you think the town hall forum provided more insight from the candidates than the traditional format?
-- Did moderating live up to your expectations?
-- How did you keep control of the candidates so they did not monopolize the conversation?
-- If you could take back one question that you asked, what would it be and why?
After reading those questions, what are we missing? Do you have a question you'd like to see in the interview?