An affair to remember: Our Atlanta birthday meetup »

 

We had the loveliest time at our fifth birthday party/iReport meetup last night!

 

CNNers and iReporters came together at the gorgeous Whitespace gallery, an indoor/outdoor space that was perfect for facilitating conversation and showing off our favorite iReport images. There was great food and drinks, fun conversation, and plenty of awkward/wonderful meetings among people who talk all the time online but were seeing each other in real life for the first time.

 

Drinks and chatting on the patio. That's Lila, our fearless leader, in the red iReport t-shirt.

 

iReporters greeted us and each other like old friends. Here, Lulis Leal and Adriana Maxwell share an enthusiastic hug.

 

We decorated by showing off some of our favorite iReport photos of all time. This is just a fraction of 'em.

 

It was wonderful to meet so many iReport community members!

 

These kids are going to be the leaders of CNN iReport someday. That's Trevor Dougherty and James Brierton, both college students and star iReporters, meeting in person for the first time. As our intern in 2008, James vetted Trevor's first iReport!

 

It's been a wonderful birthday month. Thank you, iReporters in Atlanta and around the world, for helping us celebrate!

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rachel8
// September 2, 2011
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Tonight's the night! Come meet us »

 

If you're in Atlanta, come to our CNN iReport birthday meetup and party tonight! We've been jealously watching all the cool iReport meetups around the world, and now it's finally our turn.

 

We'll be hanging out at Whitespace gallery in Atlanta's historic Inman Park neighborhood tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Come on by to meet the CNN iReport team, some iReport enthusiasts from CNN and, of course, lots of local iReporters. We'll provide drinks, and word on the street is that one of Atlanta's fab local food trucks will be on-site if you want something to nibble.

 

Hope to see you there! If you think you can make it, we'd love for you to RSVP by going to our meetup page.

Posted by:
 
rachel8
// September 1, 2011
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Top five: What we'll do next »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, iReport ringleader Lila King wraps it up with a look at what's coming.

 

 

It's been an incredible month here in iReportland. At the beginning of it we marked our fifth anniversary and set off on a string of daily top five lists on everything from international breaking news to squirrels to one very sweet love letter. At the same time of course, there was a revolution stirring in Libya, an earthquake near Washington D.C. and a huge hurricane that battered most of the eastern United States, three huge stories CNN told together with iReport and the people living through them.

 

I can't help but beam when I think about how far iReport has come in these five extraordinary years. But since we've already spent a month looking back, let's make this last list about what's coming. So, here we go. Top five things to come:

 

A fresh look

 

This fall we'll unveil a new site for iReport, including lots of new features and a much more streamlined experience. It's beautiful and I can't wait to be able to share it. (If you'd like updates, follow us on Twitter or Facebook.)

 

iReport everywhere

 

One thing you may have noticed recently is that iReport has been working with other groups and media organizations on joint projects. Like this one with our corporate cousins CNN Money, or these regular challenges with Mashable. We've even collaborated with Team Coco on hilarious videos for Andy Richter, no kidding. And, we've got several new shared projects on the way.

 

iReport has always operated on the principle that news is a very broad category: it's true stories that tell us something about our world. Joining forces with other groups lets us tap into stories and communities outside of traditional news, and bring the things they know and love into the iReport fold.

 

A bigger team

 

iReport itself is growing, and we're staffing up at CNN to support it. We've just posted three new jobs on Team iReport in Atlanta, and there very well may be more on the way. It's a newsy, smart, creative, thoughtful, super fun team and while I'm certainly biased, I'm also pretty sure it's one of the greatest groups working in journalism today. Join us!

 

True community


Ok, ok. If you'd asked me three years ago whether we had a true community on iReport, I would have said yes. And I would have been right. But what I mean here, and for the future, is that we're building a community that includes all of us who care about telling the stories that shape our world. That means iReporters and CNNers alike.

 

Until recently, CNN staffers not directly involved in Team iReport mostly stayed off our site. But lately that's been changing. With the Open Story, several CNNers (like Miami-based producer Kim Segal and New York-based photojournalist Thomas Jurek) have been using iReport as a way to file their reports back to the newsroom.

 

You should expect to see more CNNers here, contributing and interacting and being part of the club. Because we're all in this together.

 

Invent the future

 

That's what we're here for, after all. Earlier this year we launched Open Story, a template for telling a developing story in real-time together with the many people who experience it. It's a first big step toward figuring out how to collaborate on the story of an event. Why does it matter? Because one perspective is almost never enough to understand what's really going on.

 

Now we get to figure out the next step.

 

(Bonus!) A rad party

 

After a month of meetups all around the world, we're bringing the celebration home to Atlanta at the Whitespace gallery in Inman Park. If you're in town, I hope you'll join us on Thursday!

Posted by:
 
katie
// August 31, 2011
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Top five: Technology lessons learned »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, iReport tech guru Pete Bethany shares some major lessons he and his team have learned while working on the site.

 

In the five years since iReport was launched, major news events have brought with them new technology challenges. Launching a new website devoted to building a community of citizen journalists was the first major challenge we faced, but certainly not the last. Here are a few of the stories and that stand out from the perspective of the web development team responsible for creating and maintaining the site.

 

The start of it all: iReport.com launch

 

The beta iReport web site, which launched on February 13, 2008, demanded a full range of features: uploading and processing every imaginable video and image format, automatic content publishing, commenting, blogs, private messages, profiles, avatars ... the list goes on and on. Among other things, we learned very quickly that we needed sophisticated tools for the editors and moderators to manage the site and to thwart the many would-be spammers of the world.

 

Worldwide celebrations: New Year’s Eve 2008

 

On December 31, 2008, we launched an assignment topic for all the New Year’s revelers of the world to send pictures of their parties. And they did, in VERY large numbers. At around 11:00 p.m. ET, with CNN anchors encouraging everyone to participate, we saw a huge influx of pictures and videos flood into the system. File systems were overwhelmed and alarms went off. Software developers were dragged from their own parties to come to the office and deal with the mass of digital media from all over the world. Fortunately, it turned out to be a perfect practice run for news events just around the corner.

 

The Moment: Obama's presidential inauguration

 

During the inauguration of President Obama in 2009, we received more than 12,000 iReports in less than 24 hours – the most to date – and the New Years event helped prepare us to handle the load. In addition to preparing for the site traffic spikes, we joined with Microsoft to pull iReporters images into a dynamic panorama capturing The Moment.

 

Haiti earthquake: iReport repurposed

 

When an earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, thousands of family members flocked to the iReport web site to report missing loved ones. As a result, we adapted the standard media upload form to capture specific information designed to help people contact their friends and family in Haiti. Data was compiled into a database with more than 4,000 submissions and status updates. We learned that the technology behind the site needs to be flexible enough to adapt at a moments notice to demands we never expected when the site was launched.

 

Hurricane Irene: A moving target

 

Most recently, Hurricane Irene was featured as an iReport Open Story and this event provided the opportunity to add new data sources to the map view on our Open Story page. Layering the NOAA forecast cone and storm track data over the locations of iReports created a unique way to see this story unfold. In the future, we will undoubtedly be looking for new data sources to combine with information from the iReport system to help visualize events of the world.

Posted by:
 
katie
// August 30, 2011
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Top five: iReports from fascinating places »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, iReport team member Daphne Sashin revisits the iReport Global Challenge.

 

In CNN iReport’s five-year history, our more than 900,000 contributors have brought us the world. In 2010, they helped us reach a major milestone: An iReport from every country.

 

The iReport Global Challenge, as we called the project to approve at least one photo or video from 194 countries, took us to places of extreme beauty, harsh poverty and corners of the planet that are rarely talked about.

 

Here are five of them:

 

Palau

 

The most beautiful place  on earth: that’s how many visitors describe the island of Palau, a destination for scuba divers, snorkelers and kayakers the world over. Ethan Daniels of Berkeley,  California lived there for nine years as a dive guide and biologist and  still dreams of being in the sparkling waters. The small-town feel of  the country along with its natural beauty, vibrant sea life and warm,  welcoming inhabitants keep him going back every year.

 

Eritrea

 

Railroad enthusiast George Hart introduced us to Eritrea’s railway (), “a technical and engineering masterpiece” built by the Italians between 1886 and 1932 through the Denkali desert, snaking along mountains and crossing 65 bridges and 36 tunnels. The railway shut down in 1975 after it was virtually destroyed during the Eritrea’s war of independence from Ethiopia. It reopened in 2003, and Hart road the train in 2009, calling it “one of the most spectacular in the world.”

 

Djibouti

 

Eritrea's neighbor to the south, and one of the hottest places on earth, was one stop on a long voyage in the Indian Ocean for Amalvict Oliver of Nimes, France. While in Djibouti, Oliver captured these stunning images of Lake Abhe Bad, the salt lake where the final scene of Charlton Heston's 1968 movie "Planet of the Apes" was filmed.

 

Turkmenistan

 

Andrey Shapenko of Moscow, Russia, traveled to Turkmenistan last year and came back with incredible footage of a gaping, flaming gas crater in the middle of the Karakum desert. The result of a 1971 Soviet gas exploration accident, the cavern has been burning for nearly 40 years. “You understand the power of nature and real force of Earth when you stand near it,” Shapenko said. “In simple words, it was awesome.”

 

Equatorial Guinea

 

On a trip to Equatorial Guinea in August 2010, Luisa Paquet López from Gijon, Spain, captured these haunting portraits of pain, strength and innocence. The country is one of sub-Sahara's largest oil producers. It’s also on corruption watchdog agency Transparency International’s top 12 list of the world’s most corrupt countries, and known as a destination for child trafficking. “It's hard for me to talk about a country with such a ferocious regime and dictatorship where people I love live,” López told CNN.

 

If you’ve been to an amazing place, share your story with CNN iReport. And, while you’re at it, check out our Destination Adventure travel special, and experience the thrill of visiting several exciting locations through iReporters’ stunning photos and travel tips.

Posted by:
 
katie
// August 29, 2011
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Top five: Cutest iReports ever (squeal!) »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, iReport team member Rachel Rodriguez tries not to die of cute overload.

 

Every once in awhile, you hear a squeal from the iReport desk. People start to gather around someone's computer screen. And finally, there's the collective "awwwwwww" that confirms we've received another adorable animal iReport.

 

We may not be I Can Has Cheezburger (yet), but we do get our fair share of "awww"-inducing videos alongside the newsy awe-inducing ones. Here are the top five iReport videos that will make your heart melt and brighten your day, no matter what:

 

Baby tiger plays with its keeper

For anyone who has ever wanted a pet tiger (me, me, ME), this video is about as close as you can get. Sylvester the tiger cub is about a year old in this video, shot by Mordechai Twersky at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo in spring 2009. A zoo official gets down to the cub's level and calls him over, and Sylvester proceeds to climb all over his head, shoulders and torso like a big kitten (which, of course, he is). Paired with Twersky's close-up shots of Sylvester's gorgeous face and coat, this footage is guaranteed to make you want to hug your screen.

 

Ducklings trapped in pool

This video from last April would be cute on its own, but Chris Lombardo's music editing turns it into a Disney-worthy vignette that I tend to watch five times in a row every time I click on it. A mommy duck and her brood take up residence in Lombardo's Newbury Park, California, pool, and this video chronicles their eventful and adorable journey to get out again.

 

Baby deer gets her bottle

The brilliant thing about this video is that it keeps upping the adorableness quotient as it continues through its three minutes. First, the little deer comes when she's called by Amy Carrickhoff, who raised her since her mother abandoned her as a baby in Oak Ridge, North Carolina. Then she jumps up on Carrickhoff like a dog, wanting to be petted. THEN, she follows Carrickhoff into the house. And finally, she slurps down her bottle of delectable goat's milk. In a nutshell, this iReport from November 2010 got nearly 250,000 page views for a reason.

 

Bear splashes in backyard fountain

This is a video from August 2008 of a 2-year-old black bear in Mammoth Lakes, California, that climbs into Harry White's backyard fountain -- he barely fits -- and has a playful, splashy bath. There's really nothing else I need to tell you. Just watch it.

 

Penguins chase butterfly

Drama at the Philadelphia Zoo! A butterfly is flitting about in the penguin enclosure, and no matter how hard they try to toddle after it, the penguins just can't catch it. Good thing Marty McGuire was there in August 2010 to capture all the action.

 

But wait! It is my pleasure to gleefully announce that we've chosen some honorable mentions as well -- because who are we to withhold adorableness from the world?

 

This lovely goat has been my desktop background for two years. He just looks so peaceful and happy!

 

And this little lion cub, pictured above, is completely irresistible. I want to adopt him. Like, seriously.

 

Sea turtles are delightful, and they're even more adorable when they're babies and being rescued by a caring group of kids.

 

This horse is keeping cool by showering off in a sprinkler. Wait until he plays with the jets of water with his hoof like a little kid -- unbearably cute.

 

Want to meet the world's tallest cat? Here you go. She's a sweet Savannah cat who's even more beautiful than she is tall.

 

All this cute is hard to top, but if you think you have a video that can do it, we'd be delighted to see it and share it with the world. Because news is served best with an occasional side of "awwwww."

Posted by:
 
rachel8
// August 26, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Atlanta birthday meetup: Thursday, September 1 »

 

It's been a lot of fun seeing iReporters all over the world get to know each other in real life at the CNN iReport birthday meetups, and now it's our turn to celebrate here in Atlanta!

 

We'll be hosting a meetup at Whitespace gallery in Atlanta's lovely Inman Park neighborhood on Thursday, September 1, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

We're looking forward to seeing everyone and we're inviting a lot of our friends from CNN too.

 

If you think you can make it, please RSVP by going to our meetup page.

 

Hope to see you there!

Posted by:
 
davidw
// August 25, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: Natural disaster stories »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today we're looking at some of the most memorable natural disaster stories submitted to iReport.

 

Over the past five years, iReporters have stolen the spotlight here at CNN whenever a natural disaster occurs. They are the first people on the scene, so naturally they are the first people we turn to when we need information.  Throughout iReport’s history, iReporters have never hesitated to show the world their firsthand encounters with nature (as long as they can do so safely, of course!). Today we look back at five of those stories that showed devastation through the eyes of those living it.

 

Iowa City floods - a personal home tour

 

 

On June 12, 2008, the Iowa River overflowed its banks, forcing the surrounding communities to evacuate. Andrew Sherburne and his wife had just bought a house in the area and never imagined having to evacuate their home, because it was in an area that is considered a 500-year flood plain.

 

Authorities knocked on their door at 1:30 a.m. and gave the couple 30 minutes to evacuate. Trying to save their most valuable possessions, the Sherburne’s took two hours to collect what they could and almost got arrested for not evacuating in a timely manner.

 

The day after they were forced to leave, the couple decided to head back to their home by canoe to see what else they could save. This is the video they filmed as they went to save what was left of their home.

 

Last house standing after Hurricane Ike

 

 

Warren and Pam Adams from Gilchrist, Texas, lost their home in 2005 to Hurricane Rita. Wanting to stay in Gilchrist, the couple decided to rebuild, but this time they put their home on stilts, 14-feet above the ground. Three years later, in September 2008, Gilchrist was hit by Hurricane Ike, which flattened most of the town. But their home remained standing.

 

Helicopter pilot Ray Asgar captured an aerial photograph of the Adamses’ home after Hurricane Ike tore through most of the roughly 200 homes in the neighborhood.

 

Bushfire in Australia

 

 

Jim Baruta filmed this video of a wildfire heading toward his home in Victoria, Australia, on February 7, 2009. “It just kept coming and coming,” Baruta told CNN’s John Vause in a later interview. Baruta said there was no warning about the fire so he did not have time to evacuate. He says had he left, he would have never made it out.

 

Baruta stood on his porch, watching the fire come closer and closer. He took shelter in a concrete bunker he built, but eventually left the bunker to try to save his home. For hours, Baruta used a hose to fight the fire that tried to overtake his home.

 

After the fire was out, only Baruta and one other neighbor on his street still had houses.

 

Collapsed Roof Tokyo Theater

 

 

On March 11, 2011, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake shook Japan. It was the most powerful earthquake to hit the island nation in recorded history.

 

Almost immediately after it struck, we started to receive videos and photos showing what happened, giving the rest of the world a view of the experience and in some cases, the tragedy.

 

The day after the earthquake, Aaron Lace shared his experience with CNN iReport. Lace was attending a college graduation at a theater in Tokyo when the Earth started to shake violently. Lace said the emcee of the graduation told the people in the theatre to remain in their seats, but Lace decided to leave and head outside. When the quake was over, Lace headed back into the theater only to find that a part of the roof had collapsed, trapping several people and injuring many others. This video shows what Lace saw as he headed back in.

 

Tuscaloosa tornado aftermath

 

 

University of Alabama professor John Myrick captured this video of a devastated Tuscaloosa, Alabama, about an 1½ hours after a tornado touched down in the college town on April 27, 2011. He was on his way to his church, which was in one of the heavily damaged areas. “The entire neighborhood was destroyed,” Myrick said. “(It) was probably the most surreal thing I witnessed in my life.”

 

CNN’s coverage of these stories would not have been the same without these iReporters. Stories like these have put a new, much needed perspective on how we cover these disasters in the news. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: ccostello3 // August 25, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: Original reporting »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today we're looking at some of the best original reporting to be submitted to iReport.

 

iReport is changing the way we do journalism.

 

That’s a lofty statement; not too long ago, many rolled their eyes at the concept of citizen journalism. But as countless breaking news events over the past five years have proven, iReporters are always on the front lines, helping us come up with exciting and compelling new ways to report on current events. There’s real power, and near-unlimited possibility, in how iReport allows users to leap over all of journalism’s traditional hurdles and deliver original stories directly to CNN’s audience.

 

With iReport, anyone can be a shoe-leather journalist who uncovers a fresh story and breaks it to an international audience. Here are five inspiring examples of iReporters doing just that:

 

It’s what we can’t see — The BP Gulf oil spill

 

 

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a disaster playing out in slow-motion -- five months where some of our worst ecological nightmares were brought to life, an inky nightmare slowly spidering across those vital waters. As weeks dragged on and estimates on the extent of the spill began to worsen, we slowly began to realize just how serious of a catastrophe we were facing.

 

Eileen Romero visited the Gulf region in May 2010 and personally witnessed the extent of the oil spill. From its effect on the flora and fauna, to the Navy’s restoration efforts, to the corrosive chemical dispersants being deployed to clear the surface of the water, Romero used iReport to give a firsthand and as-yet-unseen glimpse of one of the biggest environmental disasters in our nation’s history.

 

Confederate flag controversy in Tampa, Florida

 

 

In the summer of 2008, a large Confederate flag was raised at the Sons of Confederate Veterans memorial park in Tampa, Florida, as a salute to the Civil War soldiers buried there. Many in the community, however, strongly objected to the raising of the flag for its associations with slavery and racism.

 

iReporter DANR went to the scene to interview the proprietor of the cemetery, and ask him why he was keeping the flag up despite heavy criticism from the community and several prominent national groups. Though the proprietor’s response is unlikely to change any minds, this iReporter reported fairly on both sides of a national controversy.

 

'Avatar’ creatures join West Bank protests

 

 

In a conflict marked by animosity on both sides and decades of deadlock, pro-Palestinian protesters decided to fuse their efforts with sci-fi allegory. James Cameron’s blockbuster “Avatar” had just been released, and many West Bank demonstrators saw a fitting comparison between the plight of the film’s Na’vi and the struggle for coexistence between the peoples of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

 

On February 12, 2010, Ayyad Mediqa was on the scene documenting weekly protests in the area when she saw these activists painted blue, wearing the traditional Arab keffiyah in place of Na’vi tribal garb. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and iReport was there.

 

New York fireman reunites with woman he saved 38 years ago

 

 

iReporter Robert McKee was taking his terminally ill father, Arthur, on a trip back to his old stomping grounds in New York City, where Arthur served in the Fire Department. While there, they decided to try to hunt down another memory: In 1970, Arthur rescued a young girl from a fire at a synagogue. The girl was unconscious from the heavy smoke, but Arthur resuscitated her three times, bringing her back from almost certain death.

 

After much searching and coordinating, Robert was finally able to surprise his father with a reunion with the girl he saved, 38 years later. He captured the tearful, emotional reunion on camera and shared it with iReport.

 

Dangerous U.S. cluster bombs linger in Laos

 

 

One of the deadliest legacies of the Vietnam War are the tens of millions of unexploded cluster bombs dropped on Laos by U.S. aircraft during the conflict. Though the war is long over, these bomblets remain, and have killed an estimated 20,000 since the end of the war, and maimed many more.

 

Samantha Bolton is affiliated with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which succeeded in signing a cluster bomb ban into international law in April 2010. Later that year, Bolton traveled to Laos to document the ongoing bomb-removal efforts and shared this very underreported story with an international audience.

 

In these iReports, citizen-journalists were on the scene providing context and perspective, whether the news was of local, national or global importance. Each of these stories is, in its own way, a perfect example of the power of iReport as a vehicle for next-generation journalism.

 

If you’ve got some great ideas of original stories you’d like to share with the CNN audience but don’t know where to start, don’t despair! iReport Boot Camp will give you a crash course in all things citizen journalism, and you can even compete for a shot at your very own CNN byline. If you’ve already got some original reporting you’re excited to share with iReport and the world, don’t wait! You could be making headlines.

Posted by: jmsaba // August 24, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: Standout personal stories »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Here, CNN Marketing’s Nnedike Ugoji revisits five standout personal iReport stories. Nnedike usually works behind the scenes on iReport, as our link to CNN's marketing department. Most days you don't hear their voices on CNN.com, but as we celebrate five big years, it'd be a shame not to include one from the force behind all those awesome birthday t-shirts.

 

Opening up and sharing one’s vulnerabilities is hard to do, but you — our iReporters — do that every day. Over the past five years, you’ve shared some of the most inspiring and most gripping stories that have affected our community and, in many cases, changed how we cover a story.

 

Earlier this year, we instituted the inaugural CNN iReport Awards. This was an opportunity for us to honor and showcase examples of the most compelling iReports that you filed in 2010.

 

Here’s a look back at five of the most striking personal stories honored in the 2010 iReport Awards.

 

My escape from Vietnam - Faithe Chu

 

iReporter Faithe Chu, the winner of the personal story category, shared an iReport that was as inspiring as it was thought-provoking. Chu’s story brought to light a topic that had been unknown to many people.

 

Growing up in post-war Vietnam, Chu lived in constant fear, for she was an Amerasian (half Asian, half American), a group that was often discriminated against by the Vietnamese government. Chu says her mother dyed her hair and burned her birth certificate in order to keep her under the radar. Being Amerasian, Chu explained, brought embarrassment and shame to her family, simply because she was biracial. She went on to share how she and her mother escaped Vietnam and how she was able to start a new life in America.

 

My coming out letter - Jeremy Johnson

 

 

Jeremy Johnson shared the coming-out letter he wrote to his commanding officer in order to show people how it felt to publicly reveal his sexual orientation while in the military. Johnson told us that living with the worry of being outed affected him mentally and physically. Toward the end of his letter he shared a powerful statement that was written on the tombstone of a deceased gay Vietnam veteran:

 

“When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."

 

My kids use the ‘N-word’ - Trudy Stergiopoulos

 

 

In America, the use of the N-word is a topic that has been debated for years. Many feel the word is insulting and offensive, while others feel the word has been redefined and no longer carries the same connotations. iReporter Trudy Stergiopoulos’ controversial iReport about her son’s use of the N-word sparked a passionate debate about race and parenting. She believes that although the word once had a derogatory meaning, it’s now used in a positive way. Stergiopoulos says that she personally doesn’t use the word, but she allows her children to do so, because they and their friends – of all races – do not think it’s a big deal.

 

I am not your joke - Tara Elizabeth Grieb

 

 

We asked our iReporters who are transgendered, transsexual or grappling with their sexual identities to share a self-portrait that included a sign with a message that incorporated something they wanted people to know about them. iReporter Tara Elizabeth Grieb shared a challenging message that forced people to stop and think. Many transgendered individuals, she said, often find that they feel misunderstood, and Grieb is one of those people. One thing she wanted us to remember is that transgendered men and women are just like everyone else, and that she isn’t “your joke.”

 

My bullying experience - Ryan Basilio

 

 

Bullying is a serious issue that affects people from all walks of life. After coming out of the closet during his freshman year in high school, iReporter Ryan Basilio was continually bullied. When a group of students tried to attack him, he fought back. Basilio went on to explain how his school’s administration failed to step in, and as a result, he went to the American Civil Liberties Union and threatened to sue the school district if it didn’t take action. He shared his story to raise awareness of bullying and to encourage students, parents and teachers to take a stand against it.

 

These iReports are just small snapshots of the exemplary personal stories that you’ve shared over the years. Your stories have brought a human face to some of the most difficult topics we face today, and we are excited to see what stories you will share in the coming years.

Posted by:
 
katie
// August 23, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: iReport breaking news TV interviews »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, CNN International’s Etan Horowitz takes a look at some of the most memorable breaking news interviews with iReporters.

 

It didn’t take long for me to realize how important iReport is to CNN’s breaking news coverage.  On my second day of work as a CNN International TV producer a massive earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010.

 

Despite CNN’s global newsgathering resources, we didn’t have a crew on the ground when the earthquake struck. We turned to iReport for some of the first pictures and videos of the disaster.

 

But obtaining images and video is only one part of covering major breaking news. Equally important is being able to interview someone who experienced the event firsthand, especially for 24-hour news channels such as CNN and CNN International.

 

Starting with the Haiti earthquake and continuing with nearly every major news event since then, I’ve been amazed that no matter where in the world breaking news occurs, iReporters are always there to document it, and they often are willing to be interviewed live on CNN via cell phone or Skype to describe what they experienced.

 

Here’s my list of the top five iReport breaking news TV interviews:

 

Carel Pedre -- Haiti earthquake (January 2010)

 

 

One of the first voices to emerge from the Haiti earthquake was radio disc jockey Carel Pedre. A savvy user of technology, Pedre immediately uploaded dramatic photos of the damage to Facebook, Twitter and iReport. About three hours after the earthquake, CNN anchor Michael Holmes interviewed Pedre via Skype on “Larry King Live.”

 

Mark LaCroix -- Minneapolis bridge collapse (August 2007)

 

 

When the Interstate 35 West bridge collapsed during rush hour in Minneapolis, iReporter Mark LaCroix shot some incredible photos with his cell phone. Less than an hour after the collapse, Wolf Blitzer interviewed him live on CNN.

 

Ryan McDonald -- Japan earthquake (March 2011)

 

 

In the hours after a devastating earthquake hit northern Japan, dozens of iReporters submitted incredible footage. Some of the most memorable coverage came from Ryan McDonald, an American English teacher living in Fukushima. I still get chills when I hear McDonald yell, “Oh my God. The building’s gonna fall,” in one of his iReport videos.

 

During breaking news coverage, CNN International anchor Jim Clancy interviewed McDonald live via Skype for more than six minutes.

 

In the days and weeks following the quake, McDonald appeared as a guest on numerous CNN shows.

 

Michael Roberts -- Gulf Coast oil rig explosion (April 2010)

 

 

Before the world knew the true magnitude of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, iReporter Michael Roberts captured amazing video of the incident that started it all -- the early morning explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Roberts shot the footage from a nearby rescue boat.

 

After shooting the video, Roberts drove from the Gulf Coast to Atlanta so he could appear as a guest on several CNN TV shows, including “AC360°.”

 

His iReport won the 2010 iReport award for best breaking news video.

 

Kevin Gash -- Kyrgyzstan protests (April 2010)

 

 

Nearly a year before the Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East, protesters stormed the central square in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan to demonstrate against perceived corruption by President Kurmanbek Bakiev. Dozens of people were killed in the clashes that successfully drove Bakiev from office.

 

It was 20 minutes before the start of “The Brief” on CNN International, and the Kyrgyzstan protests were the big story. Yet CNN did not have a reporter in place in the capital of Bishkek. The show’s producer was frantically looking for someone in Kyrgyzstan to appear as a live guest. I had just seen a vetted iReport from Kevin Gash, an American graduate student in Bishkek. We got in touch with Gash, and 20 minutes later he was being interviewed live via Skype on CNN International.

 

Thank you to all the iReporters who have appeared as guests on CNN during the past five years. CNN’s breaking news coverage would be incomplete without you.

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katie
// August 22, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: Unforgettable iReport songs »

Editor's note: iReport, CNN's citizen journalism initiative, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today, we take a look at some of the best user-submitted music videos.

 

Through the years, some iReporters have been inspired to comment on the news in song. We've had some incredibly creative music videos in the past five years that have truly run the gamut. Here are five that really made an impact. And now -- on with the countdown!

 

A New Song for Haiti

 

Filmmaker Antoni Ansarov came up with this well-crafted video, co-produced in Cameroon, France and the U.S., in the wake of the devastating Haiti earthquake in 2010. Since then, he has worked with the Serbian band, Clash of Civilizations.

 

Hire Me

 

Al Biedrzycki's musical resume certainly struck a chord (no pun intended), landing him on HLN and CNN.com Live, as millions of Americans looked for jobs. Thankfully, in the ensuing two years, he has found employment: "After the resume was picked up on the news, I began getting contacted for interviews (and called back for secondary ones too), but initially ended up jobless from lack of experience. People liked my creativity but couldn't justify hiring me over my entry level qualifications," he said.

It turns out that good old fashioned networking ended up getting him a job with Scratch Marketing + Media in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "I'd say the music resume was a nice motivation boost for me at the time and it definitely had an impact on where I am today. The job hunt can be tough for anyone, so receiving those interview and networking opportunities were very valuable, even if they didn't lead anywhere in particular at the time. You never know who you'll reconnect with down the road!"

 

Pain at the Pump

 

Veteran musician Brent Burns was compelled to write this song out of outrage at higher gas prices in 2008, and followed it up with a song on the Gulf oil spill last year, which affected his hometown of Gulf Shores, Alabama. "I've been on the road touring to include a recent appearance in Prague, Czech Republic.  My 9th CD is scheduled for release in September, 2011."

 

 

The Wall Street Punk Rock Polka

 

Among the most unique takes on a news story, Cubicle has found that their 2009 music videos resonates once again today, with the ups and downs in the stock market.

"Cubicle is still making music and plans to release a new EP entitled "The Severance Package," a collection of 6 new hard-hitting songs which will be coming out in September 2011," said lead singer Sean Cawley. "The songs are thematically tied to living and breathing in today's rough and tough economy, possibly the worst economic time since the Great Depression."

 

Ghost on a Stick

 

Halloween inspired one of Greg Reese's many music videos for iReport (we mentioned the Sarah Palin rap video in an earlier list). There is nothing quite like this, to the point where one of our interns was inspired to create her own "ghost on a stick."

"Thanks To CNN iReport, I've continued to create political songs and videos as well as silly video content. Also I have taken my 'Greg Reese, guy on the street' interviewing to another level."

 

If you've got a song in your heart, don't be afraid to post it on iReport. Until then, (with apologies to Casey Kasem) keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars!

Posted by:
 
hhanks
// August 19, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: Most-viewed iReports »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Here, CNN PR’s April Andrews revisits the five most-viewed iReports of all time.

 

I’ve been on the publicity team that promotes iReport ever since I joined the CNN public relations department in 2008. It has been a delight to watch its evolution, from receiving an iReport submission from every country to watching this amazing community grow into more than 880,000 registered users.

 

It has been even more rewarding to have the opportunity to share with the press and people outside CNN the individual stories that we receive every day from iReporters across the globe. These iReport contributors come to share news that they witness in their own backyards, videos that include passionate points of view and stories that affect and shape their lives.

 

Whether it is breaking news or something happening in local communities, thanks to CNN iReport, our users have a platform to share and surface stories about which you might otherwise never hear.

 

Of course, there are some iReport stories that resonate with users beyond all others. Here are the top five most-viewed iReports of all time:

 

210,000 Christmas lights

 

 

This isn't your everyday Christmas lights show. It took iReporter Bob Cox around three months to hang more than 210,000 Christmas lights on his Pittsburgh home and more than six months to program the display. The spectacular display is our most-viewed iReport: It’s been shared more than 1,200 times, was e-mailed almost 5,000 times, and has appeared on CNN TV.

 

National Go Topless Day at Venice Beach

 

 

iReport is also a place where users can go to express their opinions and to sound off on issues about which they are passionate. When hundreds of women came out to Venice Beach in Los Angeles to celebrate National Go Topless Day in August 2010, iReporter Julie Ellerton was there to interview attendees. This video garnered nearly 1,000 comments from users who debated whether or not women should be allowed topless in public.

 

President Obama heckled on fan shuttle bus

 

 

Our third most-viewed iReport is from Elwood, Illinois. After a rained-out Memorial Day speech in 2010, President Barack Obama made a surprise appearance on a shuttle bus. CNN iReporter Brent Ardaugh was on the bus with his camera when a fellow passenger started heckling the president. His video captured a rare glimpse of the president.

 

Millions of Facebook members protest new layout

 

 

When Facebook significantly changed its user interface in 2008, it not only was a topic around the water cooler, but people took to the Internet to express their displeasure. iReporter Trevor Dougherty, then 17, shared his views on the social-networking site and interviewed the teenager who had started a Facebook group (with more than 1.5 million members) intended to protest the new Facebook.

 

Robertson: Hate and Haiti

 

 

The fifth most-viewed iReport comes from cartoonist Brixton Doyle, who took aim at televangelist Pat Robertson and his controversial comments about the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Roberts said the quake was a result of Haitians making a pact with the devil. Doyle’s cartoon was shared almost 3,000 times and sparked more than 1,000 passionate comments from fellow iReporters.

 

If you have a story to tell or an opinion on the news, CNN.com encourages you to share it with iReport. Who knows? Maybe your submission will be the next iReport to make this list!

Posted by:
 
katie
// August 18, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: iReporters' tough questions »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Today we're looking at some of our favorite interview moments.

 

When we found out that President Barack Obama was going to be in "The Situation Room" on Tuesday, one of the first questions we asked was "can we get some questions from iReporters?" We weren't sure we'd be able to get all the details worked out, but it was a huge opportunity for our community, so we decided to give it a shot.

 

The response was great – about 45 questions in less than two hours – but we weren't able to include them in the interview. We are sending the best ones to the White House to get answers.

 

That passionate response has made the iReport Interview a regular feature on CNN.com. iReporters have a lot of great questions, and we've found that the actors, athletes, musicians, experts and even Anderson Cooper seem to enjoy the change of pace.

 

Here are five of our favorite interview questions:

 

Interviewing the future president

 

iReporters were out on the campaign trail in 2008 and contributed questions to many of the presidential hopefuls, including then-Sen. Barack Obama. Frequent iReporter Jimmy Deol asked Obama about possible V.P. picks.

 

'We just got interviewed by a Muppet?'

 

puppet

"Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World" actors Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman and director Edgar Wright had a lot of fun when they were in the CNN.com newsroom for their interview. They were playing with the iPad, holding hands and putting on jewelry. Then it got weird… The first question came from Matt Sky's puppet alter ego Ted Krasdale, which sent the stars on a hilarious detour. "I just thought he had a weird disease or something," Cera said.

 

'I'm obsessed with that dog'

 

Glee cast

 

Andy Clinton got out his guitar and sang his question for the cast of "Glee", but his dog, Indiana, stole the show. Lea Michele laughed and said she was obsessed with the pup, who sat almost motionless on the couch during Clinton's question.

 

'That's untapped talent right there'

 

Arthur interview

Russell Brand and Helen Mirren were blown away by iReporters' special effects when they sat down to talk about their movie “Arthur.” Cougar Littleton dressed like Batman and imitated the Dark Knight's gravelly voice while Andy Clinton braved a digital tempest, complete with thunder and lightning.

 

Seeing isn't everything

 

 

Cloris Leachman

It's been great to be able to load iReport questions onto a tablet or smartphone, because it gives the stars a chance to see who they're talking to. They can't always hear them though. Actress Cloris Leachman held an iPad up to her ear like a phone so she could hear what iReporters wanted to know. It seemed a little unusual at the time, but we saw Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne do the same thing a few months later.

 

Thank you all for making the iReport Interview such an exciting part of CNN's coverage. There are a lot more interviews in the works, so we hope you'll share your questions.

Posted by:
 
davidw
// August 17, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5
Top five: Amazing health stories »

Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Here, CNN health writer Elizabeth Landau shares five incredible stories she's worked on with iReport.

 

 

It's been a privilege to see CNN's iReport grow into a powerful force for citizen journalism in the past five years, and as a health reporter I've tremendously enjoyed talking with iReporters about everything from autism to brain cancer to finding birth parents.

 

Here are some of my favorite iReport projects: 

 

For disabled parents, challenges are a bonding point: One video I'll never forget was of Sarah Kovac changing her son's diaper with her feet. She and many other iReporters with disabilities shared the challenges and joys of parenting.

 

When a bullied kid grows up: Mike Sarkany was open and honest in his iReport about how he still feels like he's hiding from bullies. His story shows that the effects of bullying really can last a lifetime. 

 

Born in male body, Jenny knew early that she was a girl: This story about sex changes opened our eyes to the deep struggles of being a person born into a body that feels wrong. Some people say changing genders is one of the best things they've done. 

 

Celebrating life on the anniversary of a death: We invited iReporters to share how they remember their loved ones who have passed away, and received many touching memorial stories. Sukhraj Beasla does something special involving books on the anniversary of her grandfather's death because he was the reason she fell in love with books.

 

Who controls the thermostat in your home?: This was one of the funniest iReport projects I've worked on. We invited iReporters to vent their frustrations about temperature control in their families. Michelle Ladyzhynsky submitted a video about the "thermo wars" in her home.

 

If you have an amazing health story to share, please do! And you can always check out the iReport assignment desk to see what we're looking for.

Posted by:
 
katie
// August 16, 2011
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Posted in: ireport5

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