If you're a TV actor, you have the Emmy Awards. If you're a journalist, you have the Pulitzer Prize. But if you're a citizen reporter, what do you have? Nothing, until now.
CNN first launched the user-generated iReport feature nearly five years ago and last year alone users contributed more than 150,000 "iReports". The project surpassed more than 740,000 "iReporters" in 2010. How does it work? Users submit reports to CNN directly on the Web or from the iPhone app, which are posted to the iReport section of CNN.com.
"The collaborative relationship that we have with our iReporters is one of the unique strengths of CNN, and in many ways represents the future of storytelling," said Meredith Artley, managing editor and vice president of CNN.com, in a press release. "These awards are designed to celebrate those outstanding efforts."
According to the release, awards will be broken up into six categories: Breaking News, Original Reporting, Compelling Imagery (photos or video), Commentary, Personal Story, and Interview. In each category, five users have been nominated and will be judged by a panel of "innovators and trailblazers in participatory storytelling."
Nominees run the gamut, from iReporter Johnny Colt, who "took a boat out to the coast of Grand Island in Louisiana to expose BP for its slow effort in cleaning up the oil spill", to Sam Bolton, who "investigated the lack of progress made to clean up unexploded bomblets from the Vietnam War." While all of these iReporters may have varying levels of training and experience, they have something in common - the desire to relate their experiences and stories to the world, and CNN offers that platform. Of course, anyone could simply upload videos or relate these accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Blogger or any other "Web 2.0" medium, but CNN might lend a bit of credibility. When CNN independently confirms details on a report, it stamps it with a "vetted" badge.
Awards will close on March 7, but until then you can see all 30 nominees on the iReport Awards site.