iReport Pundit of the Week: You! »


Those in the know have been following our Pundit of the Week feature for the past few months, where we shine a light on iReporters who regularly offer thoughtful, incisive commentary on the hottest issues of the day.


And what a cast of characters it's been! Among those crowned were a puppeteer, an aspiring hip-hop mogul, a former newspaper reporter, and many more. Each of them brought a unique perspective, voice and energy to iReport, and they've quickly become some of the best-loved members of the community.


This, friends, is the final Pundit of the Week before we move into the next phase of the iReport Debate. (Stay tuned for more exciting details on that front!)


More than 22,000 people have cast their vote for their top issue in the 2012 elections, with the economy, health care and the national debt out in the lead. Also in pole position were education, tax reform and the social safety net. If you haven't cast your vote yet, this is your last chance – the polls officially close Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. ET.


All of this is a roundabout way of saying: Our final Pundit of the Week is you, the iReporter, and everyone who voted in the iReport Debate. iReport wouldn't be what it is – it wouldn't have such an excellent group of commentators and pundits – if it wasn't for our involved, engaged community.


If you want to know exactly why we're so proud of everyone, watch the video above for an in-depth explainer on the iReport Debate, and how our iReport pundits are directly contributing to CNN’s 2012 coverage.


Want to speak out and make your voice heard on iReport? There are still plenty of ways to get involved: Sound off on today's headlines, or cast your vote for your top issue in the 2012 elections.

Posted by: jmsaba // May 22, 2012
 4 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: pundit_of_the_week
iReport Pundit of the Week: Bobby Davidowitz »


Floridian Bobby Davidowitz, 33, is an Orlando-based entrepreneur. Though he’s currently plying his trade as a hip-hop mogul, he discovered a surprise passion for politics during the 2008 election cycle, and has been a voracious consumer of all things political ever since.

Davidowitz is our pick for Pundit of the Week.

Affiliation: “I’m an independent. My main issue with politics is how complex issues are being dumbed down. People are looking for simple answers to complex issues, and this is where we go wrong. Both sides, in essence, are right and wrong. There’s an answer right in the middle, if we can agree on it, then we can move forward.”

How did you first get interested in politics?
“Two things: The rise of Barack Obama and the decline of the economy, and basically the country. I’m not one to keep mentioning Bush, it wasn’t a one-man problem. But we were lulled to sleep while the economy was fine, and once things got rough I woke up and said ‘I’ve got to start paying attention!’ Before the last election, in ’08, I wasn’t engaged.”

Why do you share your opinion with iReport?
“You guys have made it easy to have an avenue, a platform. I watch so much of this stuff, and there really isn’t that much of a chance to express your opinion, but you have to let it out somewhere! The problem is, people are so sensitive about politics. Once politics gets raised, you can feel the awkwardness in the room.

“… Now that I’m so engaged in politics, I want to run for office at some point. I’m an entrepreneur now, but when I reach a certain level of knowledge in economics and history, it’s something I want to do, and iReport gives me that platform.”

Who is your political or journalistic hero?
“The top one right now is [MSNBC’s] Rachel Maddow. She hits on issues that not everybody’s talking about. There are a couple of main issues that get played over and over and over again on the main news channels, and a lot of the time they’re all covering the same stuff. Maddow digs into these local, niche stories that people aren’t talking about and puts them in a larger context. We need more of that.”

What do you think is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
“The economy. We have not seen Obama side-by-side with Romney. When they do, Obama’s going to give specifics about what he’s going to do, and has already done. You don’t hear that with Romney. You hear Obama-bashing, and generalities about small government and lowering taxes.

“… Obama’s going to sound like the guy who is pro-investment in the economy, which is what I believe in. Romney is going to have to pander to the right, and say ‘cut cut cut!’ As a businessman, I can tell you, you can’t survive that way.”

What’s something unique about you that people might be interested to know?
“I’m an entrepreneur, CEO of Fourth Quarter Entertainment. We have two hip-hop and R&B producers who are signed to our company, and a hip-hop artist. Our main focus right now is to help him break out. With the new economy of the music industry, you can do this independently. You’ve gotta build your own grassroots company, and then you can choose whether or not you even need a label. That’s where I’m at with it right now.”

Follow Davidowitz here on iReport and you’ll get to see his rock-solid commentary on your customized homepage. And if you’d like to take your shot at becoming the next Pundit of the Week, now’s your chance: Join in the discussion on iReport.

Posted by: jmsaba // May 8, 2012
 2 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
iReport Pundit of the Week: Fresh faces, hot issues »

The iReport Debate is well underway, and we've received plenty of scintillating commentary from our passionate community of pundits. Followers of our Pundit of the Week feature know that we've got a strong community of regular politics-watchers, but we've seen plenty of fresh faces arrive since the launch of the Debate.


Each of them brings a new perspective to the table, and we're excited to highlight some of the excellent work these new folks have been doing. So this week, we're tipping our hat to four of our excellent new pundits and awarding them joint honors as Pundit(s) of the Week!



Ron Paul supporter and staunch libertarian Stephen Monahan of Brooklyn, New York, ranks information and internet freedom as the issue that's got him motivated to cast his ballot in the 2012 elections. "I believe the government has way too much control, and putting the internet into the government hands is a red flag," he said. "I immediately think of North Korea and how they have complete control over what the population has access to online."



Obama lookalike and supporter Jose Williams was a frequent presence on iReport during the 2008 elections, and has returned for another round of commentary and punditry. He sees the coming election as a stark choice in direction for the U.S., a choice between a more individualistic or communal society.


He favors the latter: "With America being the most powerful and influential country in the world, our choice in President can send us down the wrong road to the extinction of man or down the good road of peace, harmony with other countries, the environment and humanity," he said.



David A. Seaman hails from Lansford, Pennsylvania, and is a self-described gay member of the GOP. Though he leans conservative on a variety of fiscal issues like taxes, gun control and individual liberty, he's concerned that his party isn't so inclusive towards members of the LGBTQ community: "I want less government, to own my own gun and to be independent. Sounds great, but when I tell you I'm gay it's a bit of a conundrum."


"I would like to see the GOP stop using religion as part of their platform to run," he said. "I would like to see the GOP embrace diversity and uphold their conservative ideals to their country and economy."



Marijuana-reform activist Frank Mattioli is a liberal Democrat who believes that the U.S. should work to legalize cannabis and hemp. He shared his thoughts on the changes he would like to see made to U.S. drug law: "I think the best step would be federal recognition of marijuana as a medicine. Ideally, I believe it should be legal and regulated similar to tobacco or alcohol, but realistically I know it's not that simple," he said. "Baby steps are the best way to go about it."


Fresh faces and hot issues, as only iReport can do it. If you're eager to join in the debate and hash it out with the iReport community, now's your chance. You could be the next Pundit of the Week!

Posted by: jmsaba // May 1, 2012
 5 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
iReport Pundit of the Week: Adriana Maxwell »


Adriana Maxwell is well-versed in all things news. This Atlanta, Georgia, resident used to freelance for both CNN International and iReport as an associate producer and is now a regular presence on iReport, where she sounds off on the hot political stories of the moment.


As she puts it in her profile biography, she's a "pundit who actually lives on a planet I like to call Earth." That definitely shows in her no-nonsense approach to political news across the spectrum. It's also why she's this week's pick for iReport Pundit of the Week.


Issues: "I've always got an eye out for when media and pundits and political analysts hammer on talking points, and never really provide facts. People have heard these talking points again and again, but sometimes they're not true, or half true. It's important that someone fact-checks what they're saying and demands they tell the truth, and stop relying on the memo that was handed to you by someone else."


How did you first get interested in politics?
"I started at a very young age. My parents were always interested in politics in the U.S., and continued to be when they immigrated here, but always had the advantage of looking at it kind of as an outsider, a third party. They always would dissect current events from a non-American point of view."


Why do you share your opinion with iReport?
"When something gets vetted, it means I've made a valid point, and my iReport makes sense and has value. It's the satisfaction of having a CNN producer say that it's good, and has been fact-checked, and it's a good story."


Who is your political or journalistic hero?
"The late Tim Russert. I've been a political junkie from birth, and I can remember watching 'Meet The Press' in the morning when I was younger. He never cut people off or got angry, he would just ask questions and let them go. And then, when they stopped for a breath, he would devastate them with a contradictory statement they had made, and put the quote right up there."


What do you think is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
"The economy. It always is. If the economy goes south, President Obama will be out. But if it keeps on growing, I don't think Mitt Romney has a chance of winning. That's why all the big guns didn't run – folks like Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels. They knew that as long as the economy was moving forward, even at a slow pace, they probably wouldn't win."


What is something unique about you that people might be interested to know?
"Well, if I can get through the day without any interruptions, which is hard to do sometimes, I can usually read two or three books a day. I'm a speed-reader. I've always had it, as a child I would go to the library, pick out ten books, and by the end of the week they would all be returned."


And she put those speed-reading chops to use in 2009 when she pored her way through the more than one-thousand pages of the Affordable Care Act. She appeared in the CNN Newsroom and gave the world the skinny on what it was like going page-by-page through the bill.


Catch some of Adriana's commentary and punditry right here on iReport. If you'd like the chance to step up on the iReport soapbox and shine a light on your own political views, now's the time to join the debate.

Posted by: jmsaba // April 24, 2012
 5 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community, pundit_of_the_week
iReport Pundit of the Week: W.J. O'Reilly »


Longtime iReporter W.J. O'Reilly knows a thing or two about the intersection of citizen journalism and media. Back when social media was in its infancy, this Massachusetts-bred commentator was the host of one of the very first news programs that featured social media submissions. And to top it off, he’s a great conversationalist.


Teacher, writer and journalist, O’Reilly is this week’s pick for iReport Pundit of the Week.


Affiliation: "I believe I’m still registered as a Democrat. For quite a while, I was an Independent, but I decided to formalize that based on how I was voting. I call myself a ‘Massachusetts Democrat’ no matter where I’m living because that’s kinda the quality of Democrat I am. I can’t get away from it."


How did you first get interested in politics?

"I did go to journalism school, so we had to have a certain awareness and restraint about things like that. Honestly though, it wasn’t until I encountered iReport back in the 2008 election when I really started to see that there was a platform out there to broadcast your ideas.


"So, I allowed myself to formulate some political opinions and used iReport to get my thoughts out there. It’s great! It’s an exciting and wonderful opportunity."


Why do you share your opinion with iReport?

"I think it’s an amazing opportunity to engage with many other people on ideas that really matter a great deal. It’s a chance to clarify your own views, to sharpen your ability to communicate, and to actively and dramatically make a difference in this very impersonal world we live in. This is one opportunity we have as citizen-journalists to use the media to put our ideas out there to the general public."


Who is your political or journalistic hero?

"David Halberstam, he died a couple years ago. He was a contributing editor at 'More,' the media magazine. I had my first-ever piece published there while I was still in journalism school."


What do you think is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?

"The ability for the candidates to be authentic. The more authentic of the two is going to win. I see this as a political jousting match of almost pure attitude: Who projects certainty, credibility and connectedness.


"The only sticking point I would say is going to be health care. ... I don’t think these health care companies should have any more influence than the abusive levels of power they already do. Obama's health care law is just going to throw billions more dollars their way. It’s going to embolden them to ratchet up their prices and take advantage of all of us."


What’s something unique about you that people might be interested to know?

"The very first live news broadcast that used social media was a program called ‘NewzViewz,’ which I was the host of in 2005. We went out really rapidly on it before anyone had a chance to do it, so we could claim we were the first. Then, of course, every other network jumped on the idea. I was the host of the very first live, studio-produced nightly news program that went out over the web and used social media to take the temperature of the audience.


"We would have a panel of just regular people who would come on and talk about the events of the day that would be voted on on our website. When iReport started happening, I said wow, this is being done really well. It was a completion of something that I helped bring into this world, in a way."


If you'd like to see some of O'Reilly's regular and incisive video commentary, you can follow along here on iReport. And if you're looking to get in on the conversation, or join the newly-launched 2012 iReport Debate, there's never been a better time than right now.

Posted by: jmsaba // April 17, 2012
 11 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
iReport Pundits share top election issues »


To kick off the iReport Debate – an invitation for you to let the decision-makers know what issues matter to you most – we reached out to some folks in our community who regularly sound off on politics: our former iReport Pundits of the Week! We wanted to find out their  top issues in the coming election, and the answers spanned the spectrum.


Health care

Former iReport Pundit Egberto Willies of Kingwood, Texas, has long rallied for health care on iReport, so it’s no surprise that it's his top issue this election. The Obama supporter is passionate about health care because his wife has Lupus.


"We have always had to jump through hoops to get insurance. … Presently my family has three policies: A high risk policy for my wife, a catastrophic policy for my daughter and myself, and a student health care policy for my daughter. While so far I have been able to afford insurance continuously, many cannot and the numbers reflect that," he explained.



In the past few years, Jannet Walsh has been laid off twice. Now, the Murdock, Minnesota, resident is coming back from unemployment but launching her own photography business. Her experiences with unemployment are exactly why she says a "strong economy" is her top issue for this election.


"If we solve the problems employment for our nation, many our nation's problems will be solved, or at least be on the way to a real recovery, meaning employment, and the hope of a bright future," she said.



Former iReport Pundit of the Week Mary Helen Yarborough says energy is her top issue because it "affects everybody." The Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, resident talked about how it affects everything from personal budgets to commerce and industry to even “our nation’s sovereignty,” she said.


"It is difficult for me to afford filling my gas tank," she shared. "And I have noticed more and more people stranded on roadsides with a fuel container nearby. That's telling. People are so strained that most can't afford to fill their cars to the point that they are vulnerable."



Omekongo Dibinga of Washington, D.C. spends his time speaking to students and training teachers for a living. But one memory has driven him to fight for better public schools.


One day, he traveled from a public school in the poorest part of Washington to a private school in the richest part of the city.


"The disparities I saw in that one day are seared in my mind," he shared. "I went from the public school, where there were holes in the ceiling, students were sharing books, eating bad foods in the cafeteria, and there were no foreign language or arts programs, to the private school, where the students were eating vegan hot dogs on fine china and of course, the facilities were amazing."


"I asked myself: 'How are the kids in my neighborhood really supposed to compete academically with these students?'" he added.


We'd like to hear from you too. Tell us your top issue in the coming election and explain why you’re passionate about it. Whether the commentary comes in the form of a short video or some thoughtful prose, add your voice to the iReport Debate.

Posted by:
// April 10, 2012
 8 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community, pundit_of_the_week
iReport pundit of the week: Mary Helen Yarborough »

Supporters like Mary Helen Yarborough are a big reason why former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary back in January, and quite possibly why he continues to stay in the race for the Republican presidential nomination to this day.

However Yarborough – CNN iReport’s Pundit of the Week – is hardly a hardcore conservative Republican. The former journalist caught the attention of the iReport community with commentaries like “Women are fed up,” (see below) and “Reality check, candidates: It’s tough out there.”

The Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, resident recently told CNN iReport all about herself and her political background. She recently made calls for Gingrich during various primaries, and was considering doing so for today's vote in Maryland.

Affiliations: “I have voted Democrat and Republican. (My father was a county Democrat chair, and so he and my father’s side always was Democrat while my mother’s side always was Republican … except my cousin on my father’s side worked for George Bush, much to Uncle Hall’s disappointment.)”

When did you get interested in politics?

“Probably junior high. I used to sit up until wee hours watching the returns come in. Mama and Daddy went to Chicago in 1968 (Daddy was a delegate). So, I was 10 at the time. I used to go around with my father and uncle to stump meetings. (I am the fourth of five children, but the only one who went around with my father to various events. We used to have some interesting people for breakfast, like John Carl West … and Daddy used to talk to Fritz Hollings a good bit.)”

Why do you share your opinion on iReport?

“I know that I am an independent thinker and am inclined to voice opinions that most are afraid to express; so as long as y’all don’t mind, I like the chance to freely (and respectfully) voice my opinion."

Who is your political or journalistic hero?

“Of course, the [Bob] Woodward and [Carl] Bernstein team. Woodward actually worked for the same little paper in Montgomery County, Maryland, as I once did.”

What is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?

“Energy prices, cyber-security/stability and volatility in the Middle East. It stands to draw a lot of attention to how Obama is protecting this country and our interests, and I suspect he may act in a manner that is quite revealing.”

What’s something people might be interested in learning about you?

“I played first chair trumpet in what was a remarkable high school concert band (ahead of a dozen boys who were probably better than I was). I authored a book, ‘Disaster Planning Guide for Medical Facilities’ after I saw that hospitals are the least prepared for disasters.”  "I was a print journalist, having worked for small community papers (nondailies and dailies); was a stringer for Reuters years ago, and for the Post & Courier, etc. Then, I went to work for the specialty press (those expensive newsletters, including those for Platts, BPI and Thompson Publishing) in the Washington, DC, area and became a member of the Senate Periodical Press Gallery (I covered literally every issue except maybe finance, per se)."

Follow Yarborough here, to check out her commentary. And it’s not too late to join in the debate about the issues of the day, including the campaign. Click here to chime in.

Posted by:
// April 3, 2012
 4 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
iReport Pundit of the Week: Egberto Willies »

[This photo was taken as part of iReport's Persona series in 2011. Read more about it here.]


IT guru Egberto Willies of Kingwood, Texas, is perhaps one of our most prolific iReport commentators. An active member of the community since 2008, he can be seen offering his thoughts on video – and following up with a deep-dive on the issue at hand in the comments section – almost every single day. In addition to commenting on the national debate of the moment, he also regularly reports on local events in his area, and even participated in a year-long iReport project in 2010 tracking the state of the economy.


Even those who strongly disagree with him respect his integrity and moxie, which is why he’s our pick for Pundit of the Week.



Affiliations: “I am registered as a Democrat, but I’ve never voted straight-ticket in my life. I vote [for] the person. … My most important issue, bar none, is healthcare. We are the only country in the industrialized world without some kind of universal healthcare. I think it’s a human right, and I can’t understand why there’s so much resistance to taking care of each other. I think it’s sad, and even morally reprehensible.”


When did you get interested in politics?
“From the time I was in college. I went to the University of Texas, Austin, and joined the South African Liberation Action Committee; we worked to have universities and businesses divest from trade with South Africa until apartheid ended. When I joined corporate America and started my family, I began to tone my real-life activism down a little bit and got involved in heavily in online blogging.”


Why do you share your opinion on iReport?
“When there’s real news going on in the world, the fly-by-night networks drop their coverage and everyone tunes in to see what CNN is doing. And CNN gives two things to the iReporter: The CNN name, the cred of being approved for use on CNN web or TV, and the environment for debate. Even though many users might disagree with me and beat up on me a little, most of them are pretty darn intelligent, and you get a lot of great debate.”


Who is your political or journalistic hero?
“For the old-school, definitely Walter Cronkite. He had such gravitas. When it comes to the newer guys, most of them aren’t on TV. When I look at the factual basis for the work of [newspaper columnists] Paul Krugman and E.J. Dionne, and the analysis that these guys do in a 750-word piece, you wonder how this country could end up so misinformed and confused on issues like healthcare.”


What is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
“People are saying that it’s going to be all about numbers, like the economy and unemployment, but I think that this election is going to fool everybody.  I think this is going to be an ideological election about what kind of country we want for the future. The Occupy movement and the 99% are going to be the wildcard, if they manage to bring their issues to the discussion, maybe we’ll finally have a debate in this country about things like wealth disparity, and the structural defects in the way we define the economy.”


What’s something people might be interested in learning about you?
“When I was in college, making pizza helped put me through college; throwing the dough up in the air and spinning it, the real Italian way, just like the classic chefs do! I was a real pizza guy in the olden days.”


Follow Willies here, and watch your customizable homepage fill up with his smart, timely commentary. And if you’ve been hankering for a chance to add your voice to the mix and put your opinions out there, now’s your chance: Join the debate.

Posted by: jmsaba // March 27, 2012
 11 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
iReport Pundit of the Week: Jannet Walsh »


Minnesota-bred photographer Jannet Walsh knows a good story when she hears it. It’s why she’s always eager to sound off on the news, from the recent controversy over working conditions at Apple’s Foxconn plant, to her own experiences with unemployment.


Her nose for news is part of the reason why she was tapped by HLN to speak with Clark Howard on the struggles facing unemployed workers in this country, and it’s also why she’s our pick for Pundit of the Week.



Issues and affiliations: “Any candidate who doesn’t think that the unemployed have real problems, they probably shouldn’t be running for office.”


How did you get interested in politics?

“In 1968, Hubert Humphrey got the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party. That year, he came to my hometown of Litchfield, Minnesota. He flew in, and I remember all of these people were lined up to see him, and my mother was so excited, telling me ‘Here he comes, here he comes!’ I didn’t quite get it, although I was only 4 or 5 at the time, but politics has always been a big part of my family.”


Why do you share your opinion on iReport?

“I live in a remote part of the country, [Murdock, MN, population 303] yet at the same time, with iReport, I’m not. I live about a two and a half hour car ride from the Twin Cities, but here, I can speak to the entire world. … I grew up with news junkies, but back at that time, no one could have ever predicted that people could directly respond to the news the way we can now.”


Who is your political or journalistic hero?

“Eddie Adams, the Vietnam War photographer. I got to meet him early on in my career, as part of the Eddie Adams Workshop. ... I had so many questions to ask him, but I was so starstruck that I completely choked up.”


What is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?

“It all comes down to the economy. Who is going to pull us up, and does that person, man or woman, have a plan to make us stronger economically? Does that person speak to people in need? There are so many people who can’t find jobs right now, and so many of them are just giving up.”


What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?

“When I lived in Europe, I was in the Netherlands. The only way I could work at the time was to start my own company, so I took a Dutch-language course so that I could interview for a freelance photography gig with a Dutch newspaper. The whole interview was in Dutch, and I struggled through it, and at the end of the two-hour conversation the editor said, ‘The next time you come, could you speak in English?’”


Follow Walsh here on iReport, or check out some of her excellent photography here. If you’d like to get in on the conversation and throw your hat into the ring for Pundit of the Week, now’s your chance: Join the debate.

Posted by: jmsaba // March 20, 2012
 5 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community, pundit_of_the_week
iReport Pundit of the Week: Mary Beth Cox »


Mary Beth Cox has a voice and she’s not afraid to use it. The Virginia resident first lit up the iReport arena with an honest, pointed video commentary about the resurgence of the contraception debate. That video and the follow-up after it launched a big conversation about women's health right here on iReport.


When someone starts intelligent discourse on iReport, we notice. With that, we honor Cox as the latest iReport Pundit of the Week.


Affiliation: "I tend to align myself more with the Democratic Party, but I'm open to not voting along party lines. I'm most likely to vote for somebody who supports policies favorable to women, children, families (ALL families) and fiscal responsibility. People may think that's an oxymoronic statement (or just moronic) in the current climate, but I don't think it has to be that way."


How did you first get interested in politics?
"Very early on, I recognized that when a few people make decisions for a whole population, some agree, some disagree, some get left out, and some leave. My first clear memory of this is growing up in the Catholic Church, having an epiphany that there were only men standing on the stage telling people how they should live. That's a powerful realization for a child. Just because I was a girl, I was being left out. It was the first time I understood that, no, I couldn't be anything I wanted to be. It felt very wrong. It set the stage for scrutiny throughout my life of who's making the decisions and why."


Why do you share your opinion on iReport?
"I think what I have to say is important. That may sound conceited, but the truth is, what everybody has to say is important, especially if they're passionate about it.  More people should make iReports. I work. I have kids. I can't go to the Capitol or make phone calls to my legislator all the time. But I can take 20 minutes to make an iReport and say something that connects with somebody or starts a discussion."


Who is your political or journalistic hero?
"I love NPR. They go deeper into important topics and stories than any other outlet. I read a lot of journalistic books that deeply examine an issue, use sciences, and teach me something. The last one I read was called "Garbage Land" by Elizabeth Royte. That's important to me because serious issues demand a microscope, not a lacquering that most news organizations give."


What is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
"I think it will depend on who gets the GOP nomination. If it's Mitt Romney, we may be able to have a rational tug-of-war around the national debt and economic growth. If it's Rick Santorum, it will likely be around what people euphemistically call 'social issues' which will really be a fight about the imposition of religious and moral views in public policy. You can infer how I feel about that in question No. 2."


What's something people might be surprised to learn about you?
"I used to be painfully shy about speaking in public. Ten years ago, I would have NEVER considered making a video of myself, much less putting it up for public scrutiny. Since then I think I've learned, by hook or by crook, to be vulnerable ... at least more than before. You only live once."


Follow Cox here and check out her latest updates on your customized iReport homepage. And, if having a conversation about big issues strikes your fancy, get ready to debate about what matters to you. Join the debate and you could be our next Pundit of the Week.

Posted by:
// March 13, 2012
 43 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
iReport Pundit of the Week: Mark Ivy »


It’s Super Tuesday, so it’s fitting that today’s pick for Pundit of the Week is a consummate politics junkie. Mark Ivy, 57, hails from Farmersburg, Indiana, and is an iReport commentator who tackles it all: In-depth issues, the horse race, and everything in between. And to his credit, he’s also never afraid to take on critics and admirers alike by jumping into the comments section and initiating some lively — and respectful — dialogue.



Affiliation: "I’m an independent moderate, I would say. Some things I tend to be conservative on, like the debt and fiscal policy, and some things I tend to be more liberal on, like certain social issues."


How did you first get interested in politics?
"I’ve been a politics junkie since I first started reading, and all through my education. I really started to go deep into things when I started to work for a daily newspaper, the 'Linton Daily Citizen' right here in Indiana. Out of nowhere, I became a reporter for them for several years, and politics was part of the beat."


Why do you share your opinion on iReport?
"For me, it’s about the community. I’m disabled, so in a way, iReport keeps me connected with the outside world. Even though I have some physical problems, mentally, I can still assess and listen, and sort through what’s going on in the world.


"I always try to do iReport commentary on issues that, whether I agree with them or not, at least gets a conversation going. Discussion is how we learn."


Who is your political or journalistic hero?
"Back in the day, I used to read anything by James Kilpatrick I could get my hands on. He seemed to have it down pat, that you have to know who your audience is, and write to them. You can’t always be going over, or under, their heads. You’ve gotta find that middle ground. So, Kilpatrick was a source I went to all the time to figure out the best way to improve my copy."


What is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
"It’s all going to boil down to whoever has the best leadership skills, because that’s really what people look for in a president. Whether it ends up being President Obama, or one of the current Republican field, this election will be a referendum on who has the best ideas and acumen to lead the nation for the next four years."


What’s something that people might be surprised to know about you?
"One of the most unique things about me was that one of my first jobs out of college was working on an egg farm down in Louisiana, by myself, tending to something like 12,000 hens. Cleaning eggs, cleaning out the coops, and then packaging the eggs in cartons to be shipped off to the stores."


Follow Ivy here on iReport, and watch your customized homepage fill up with his smart, cutting-edge commentary. And if you’d like to take a more active role in the debate, you’re in luck! With election season kicking into full swing, there’s never been a better time to join the debate.

Posted by: jmsaba // March 6, 2012
 22 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
iReport Pundit of the Week: Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis »


Like many in the iReport community, Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, 38, wears a cornucopuia of different hats. She’s a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who works to provide support for victims of human trafficking. She dabbles in dance and live poetry. She runs a women’s ministry in southern California. And she’s the daughter of a preacher man.

Well, Davis now has one more hat to add to an already-impressive collection: The iReport Pundit of the Week.



Affiliation: “My primary issue is mental health. I like to look at the news and current events from a psychological perspective, to help understand to how to analyze bad news in terms of prevention, and how to promote positivity. Growing up, I was a pastor’s daughter. Within our community, most people talk to their minister about emotional issues; it’s called pastoral counseling. So I got exposed to this very early on, recognizing the need for people to have someone to talk to they can trust.”

Why do you share your opinion on iReport?
“It’s a way to access a larger community. I do work with people and families in sessions, a one-on-one type of thing, and I also teach classes at Pepperdine University, which is a classroom setting. But with the Internet, I’m able to connect with people across the globe. I want to learn from them, and share what I know with that larger audience.

“There’s also a stigma attached to therapy, some people have emotional or financial barriers against it. So the way I see it, the more good information on mental health I can get out in public, the better.”

Who is your political or cultural hero?
“Sonia Sanchez. That’s an interesting choice for me, because she’s a poet, but a lot of her poetry also deals with political and cultural issues. One of the reasons I admire her is because she’s a truth-teller who uses the arts to get her message across.

“The arts are often a way to get people to hear truths and ideas that might be uncomfortable. You can present people with facts and statistics, but the arts have a way of connecting with people on an emotional, spiritual issue. Sanchez talks about very difficult and sensitive issues that motivate people to action. The best kind of awareness-raising is the kind that doesn’t leave people feeling guilty or overwhelmed, but motivates and inspires them.”

What’s going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
“This election is going to present very different ideas about who runs the government, and what shape it should take. Now, if you ask a general person on the corner, they’re probably still going to say the economy. But in the way the debate is being framed right now, it’s more about how we’re going to get there. Everyone agrees that we want the economy to get better, but the debate is going to be about how.”

What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?
“I was a queen of slam, I’m a slam poetry champion! I love performing poetry, which is an interesting balance for me. In therapy, you do a lot of listening; with performing poetry, it’s a space for me to let my voice be heard. Like iReport!


“I’m also in charge of the women’s ministry at a church in southern California. ... I direct our dance ministry, I like to integrate the arts and mental health into spiritual life. It’s nice being able to connect psychology and spirituality. In the women’s Bible studies I do, I really try to pick out life principles and strategies for success, so that it’s not just something that people think about in the abstract, but rather their lived experience.”


Follow Thema right here to catch her latest updates on your iReport homepage. If you’re ready to get in on some of the smartest debate and discourse around, now’s a perfect time to join the discussion on iReport. You could be our next Pundit of the Week!

Posted by: jmsaba // February 28, 2012
 4 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community, pundit_of_the_week
iReport Pundit of the Week: Matt Sky »

Editor's note: As election season heats up, we're profiling interesting iReporters who have plenty to say when it comes to politics. Want your chance in the spotlight? Share your political commentary here.


Matt Sky, 27, is a web developer from New York City. He's perhaps best known in the iReport community for something pretty unique: From time to time, he subs out his mug for a plush marionette named Ted.


"I wanted to see what kinds of unusual reactions I could get from people when I interviewed them," he said. "What I found out about using the puppets was that, sometimes, people answer more honestly to the little furry thing on your hand than an actual person, because a puppet lets you bypass the serious, personal aspects of an interview."


Master of puppets, Matt is this week’s pick for iReport’s Pundit of the Week.



Affiliation: "I often find myself on the liberal end of things when it comes to social issues and most economic policy, but that always varies from issue to issue. I would never consider myself someone who goes straight down a party line."


How did you get interested in politics and current affairs?
"In my teen years, I was in a political science class. I almost failed it, because I never turned in any of the work. But the teacher let me pass because I was engaging in dialogue, and constantly debating my classmates.


"I remember there were students arguing that there would never be a woman president, and I said no, there definitely will be. That’s a moment I always trace back to when I think about where my fascination with politics came from."


Why do you share your opinion on iReport?
"It’s important to our democracy that we have a dialogue. Everything that I try to do goes back to understanding people. It’s not just about ranting and raving, it’s really about listening."


Who is your political or journalistic hero?
"I’ve been very impressed with Piers Morgan, lately. I love his style. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Larry King too, he had a very reasoned and structured approach to interviews. But what I like about Morgan is his ability to tap into some unusual and intimate areas when he interviews someone.

"... What I love is when you get them to open up enough to reveal who they are. Even if it’s someone you disagree with, you can still see that shared humanity. And it’s great when an interviewer can cut through to that, because it reveals how, in the end, we’re all more similar than we think."


What’s going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
"I would look to the Republicans, honestly. It’s going to be about what they present to voters. ... I do think if they pick Romney it’s going to be harder for Obama because of the sheer number of disenfranchised Democrats right now. And they’re not disenfranchised because they’re hungry for a Republican or conservative alternative, but because they feel that Obama’s presidency didn’t live up to what he said it was going to be."


What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?
"My dad was a 'hidden child' – A Jewish Holocaust survivor. He married my mother, who is a Lutheran Christian from Duluth, Minnesota, where I grew up. So I celebrated both holidays as a kid, double the fun with Hanukkah and Christmas presents. I think that’s always shaped who I am. Learning about different faiths and ideas and ideologies is a big part of who I am."


Follow Sky here on iReport and you’ll get to see his timely commentary (and maybe a puppet or two) on your customized homepage. And if you’d like to take your shot at becoming the next Pundit of the Week, there’s no better place than here, no better time than now: Join in the discussion on iReport.

Posted by: jmsaba // February 21, 2012
 1 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: community, pundit_of_the_week
iReport Pundit of the Week: Omekongo Dibinga »


A lot can change in a week, especially when it comes to politics. We love it when iReporters weigh in on the latest developments in the political world, because they give us smart and incisive vox populi you can’t get anywhere else. Every week, we’re saluting one iReporter who regularly offers thoughtful commentary to the iReport community.


This week’s top dog is renaissance man Omekongo Dibinga. He hails from Washington DC, and is the father of two girls. When he’s not working as a teacher's assistant at Georgetown for Michael Eric Dyson’s seminar on Jay-Z, or dropping fresh tracks under his hip-hop alias "Young M.A.Y.A.," you can find him on iReport, where he’s never afraid to tell you where he stands:



Affiliation: "Independent, always an independent, definitely. I can honestly say I’ve never voted for a Republican, but that also doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t."


How did you get interested in politics and current affairs?
"My parents, plain and simple. They’re serious activists. They came from the Congo, and they grew up in the colonial era. They were very active in fighting colonialism, and fighting to bring democracy to the country. When they came to the United States, that evolved into activism on social issues. I was maybe 7 years old, and I was out there working on the 'Free Nelson Mandela' campaign, or the movement to stop police brutality in the neighborhood of Boston I grew up in."


Why do you share your opinion on iReport?
“What I really love about iReport is my belief that we make real change, lasting change, through dialogue with each other. That bit I did with W.J. O’Reilly – we probably would have never even met if it weren’t for iReport. The way we make change in this world is not through force or military might, it’s through conversation."


Who is your political hero?
"Maya Angelou is my hero. When I was young, growing up poor in a violent part of Boston, I had a lot of internal struggles. Maya Angelou was one of the first people I read, besides my parents, who were talking about Africans being beautiful. Reading her poetry really helped me get through a lot.


"That’s why my rap name is Young M.A.Y.A. – The Mighty African Youth Advocate. Her poetry, and her spirit of belonging to an international community, that’s what I want to do with my life."


What's going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
"Honestly, I really believed it was going to be jobs and the economy, but it’s looking like it’s going to be a resurgence of the culture wars. People are going to draw battle lines on social issues – pro-life vs. pro-choice and all that."


What's something people might be surprised to learn about you?
“I'm a rapper, I love hip-hop! I rap about a lot of the same things I talk about on iReport, but the entertainment world and hip-hop in general don’t support us, even people who say they want positivity and social messages in rap. It can be hard for people who don’t promote the drugs-and-sex lifestyle to make a living in hip-hop, but I still love it."

Follow Omekongo right here on iReport to get his latest commentary served up fresh on your personal homepage. Want to sound off on the most pressing issues of the day, and take your shot at becoming iReport's next Pundit of the Week? Join the discussion on iReport

Posted by: jmsaba // February 14, 2012
 8 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
iReport crowns first-ever Pundit of the Week »


Those in the know will always find a lively political debate brewing on iReport between our super-savvy politics junkies as they sound off on the most pressing issues of the day. With 2012 election mania in full swing, we’re kicking off a new weekly series at iReport: The Pundit of the Week.


Each week, we’ll introduce you to a member of the iReport community — liberals, conservatives, and everyone in between — who frequently engages in political debate and discussion with our community. Then, we'll do a Q&A for a look at the person behind the laptop camera.


Our first-ever Pundit of the Week is Cameron Harrelson. He hails from Baxley, Georgia, and at has been a regular iReporter since he first joined the site in 2009. At age 17, he’s also one of our youngest political commentators.



Affiliation: Conservative / Independent — "I always tell people: I'm an American first, a conservative second, and a Republican last.”


How did you get interested in politics?
"I remember watching the results of the 2004 elections and becoming instantly interested in the American political process. I recognized that my parents wanted George W. Bush to win, and were excited for that, but there was something that appealed to me beyond just that. Pretty soon after that, I decided that I wanted to get involved in politics at the local level, and eventually run for office.”


Why do you share your opinion on iReport — why should people listen to what you have to say?
“In my own way, I want to help improve the political dialogue in this country. It doesn't matter to me whether you're a Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Independent or Liberal. What matters are ideas, and how you express them. We all need to find a way to talk to each other respectfully, even if we totally disagree.


“Oftentimes, people tell me that I only have the opinions that I have because I'm copying my parents’ positions. I want everyone to know that's not the case. I do a lot of research on my own to arrive at these conclusions.”


Who’s your political hero?
“Honestly? Right now, and I know this is probably going to make a bunch of people write me off, but I have to say Sarah Palin.


“She took on some tough ethics issues while she was Governor of Alaska, she fought for her principles. And whether you love or hate her, you can’t deny that she made a huge splash when she arrived on the national scene. Sure, I do find some of her positions appealing, but the real reason she inspires me is because of her character and determination.”


What’s going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
“Far and away, the economy and jobs. There are other issues that are intertwined with this, like the runaway cost of healthcare, inflation, our huge debt and deficit, and wasteful spending. But when it comes to what’s going to be immediately on people’s mind, it’s definitely the economy.”


What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
“I took maybe 2 months worth of piano lessons, and after that learned how to play music by ear. I taught myself some guitar chords by doing the same thing.”


Follow Cameron on Twitter at @Cam4573. If you’d like engage in spirited debate and throw your hat into the ring for Pundit of the Week, now’s your chance: Join in on the discussion at iReport.

Posted by: jmsaba // February 7, 2012
 24 comments // Add a comment
Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community

About the iReport Blog

The latest and greatest on CNN iReport, brought to you by Team iReport.

Categories Recent posts Monthly Subscribe