Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

The people have spoken!

By John D. Sutter, CNN
updated 8:36 AM EDT, Tue June 18, 2013
CNN asked readers to vote on the stories columnist John D. Sutter will cover as part of his <a href='http://cnn.com/change'>Change the List</a> project. More than 32,000 votes were cast. Here are the winners: 1. Widest rich-poor gap, 16,789 votes. What's happening to America's middle class? One state may yield answers. CNN asked readers to vote on the stories columnist John D. Sutter will cover as part of his Change the List project. More than 32,000 votes were cast. Here are the winners: 1. Widest rich-poor gap, 16,789 votes. What's happening to America's middle class? One state may yield answers.
HIDE CAPTION
Winners of the Change the List vote
Winners of the Change the List vote
Winners of the Change the List vote
Winners of the Change the List vote
Winners of the Change the List vote
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN lets readers choose the topics for the new Change the List project
  • John Sutter: More than 32,000 people voted. He will report on the five winners
  • One winning story will focus on the state with the widest rich-poor gap
  • Sutter: "This is journalism as democracy ... You're the boss"

Editor's note: John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion and head of Change the List. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. E-mail him at ctl@cnn.com.

(CNN) -- Remember that scene at the end of that Facebook Movie ("The Social Network") when Mark Zuckerberg's character sits alone at a computer screen hitting the refresh button over and over again -- stuck in a loop of anxiety and longing?

That's how I felt last week.

On June 10, to re-launch a CNN Opinion project called Change the List, my editors and I put forward 20 story ideas for your consideration -- and I agreed to do whatever five stories got the most votes. Meantime, a colleague of mine created an internal Web page so I could monitor, in all-the-time-real-time, which stories were leading the race. That internal website, which had a yellow banner that said, "CONFIDENTIAL: For internal use only" at the top of it, was titled "How John's going to be spending the rest of 2013."

I was nervous about the results because I was excited to know what I would be reporting on, of course -- but, more importantly, because the topics CNN's editors put forward really do matter: the most dangerous roads in the world; America's failing education system; the country where 1 in 100 live births kills the mother.

John D. Sutter
John D. Sutter

These stories could make a difference.

So I checked that website again and again, to the point I briefly developed an eye twitch. This isn't like me, by the way. I'm the kind of person who (usually) sits through dinner without reading texts. But for the seven days the poll was open I turned into some sort of one-function cyborg. Must. Check. Leaders.

I'm pleased to tell you the wait is finally over. My eye twitch has subsided and normal life can resume. At 2 p.m. on Monday we closed the poll. And here are the results. These are the Change the List stories for the next year -- with one wild-card topic still to be determined by my editors (who I'm being reallllly nice to this week).

1. America's widening rich-poor gap (16,789 votes)

2. Illegal animal trade (13,276 votes)

3. Where rape is most common (12,996)

4. The world's poorest children (12,820)

5. America's most endangered river (12,002)

Each story will focus on an extreme case -- the state with the widest rich-poor gap or the place where rape is most common. Together we'll try to start a conversation that could, in the long run, bump these places off the bottom of their respective lists.

I'll announce the first story soon and will reveal the focus of each story (which river is the most endangered, for instance) during the reporting process.

I love that each of these stories was chosen by you. I see that as a mandate of sorts. When journalists pitch big projects they sometimes wonder, "Is this really the best use of my time?" I don't have those doubts with Change the List. I know I'm working on your behalf -- on the topics you've deemed most important.

This is journalism as democracy -- rebalanced to give you power.

You're the boss. That's the way it should be.

I also think this vote created a pact between us. I know that you'll have my back as I tackle these subjects and ask for your help in gathering info and pushing for change. These are subjects that are too massive to take on alone. I'll need your help.

I'll leave you with the rest of the list just so you can get a sense of what your peers on the Internet value. As I wrote last week, I was surprised by these numbers -- not the fact that 32,546 ballots were submitted, but because a story about the economy finished at the top of the list, and several ideas I found to be most interesting (the country with 100,000 new cases of leprosy per year; the place in the United States without Internet access) received relatively few votes. About half of you picked the income inequality story, the winner, which would have been near the bottom of my ballot. Only 9% of the ballots submitted included the leprosy story, which would have been my top pick.

All these are worthy subjects. But the vote gave me pause. It made me re-evaluate my news judgment -- and realize how interesting and rewarding it can be to include your perspectives in the story-selection process. You see things I'd miss on my own. And during the vote, you also gave me at least 97 story ideas that could be the basis for the wild card sixth story. How cool is that?

I hope you'll follow this project over the coming months -- and participate in its creation. The Change the List homepage -- http://cnn.com/changethelist -- is one place to look for updates. We also have Tumblr, and my personal social networks are listed in the editor's note at the top of the story. Thanks to all who voted. I'm excited for this journey. I must have the best job in journalism. And it's because I have all of you guiding me.

Here's the rest of the list, including vote totals:

6. Where conflict is never-ending (11,566)

7. The state with the highest drop-out rate (10,372)

8. America's most drug-dependent state (8,614)

9. The country ranked lower for free speech than North Korea (8,380)

10. The world's deadliest roads (7,864)

11. Where women aren't in government (7,197)

12. Where you're most likely to be locked up (6,810)

13. Where 9 in 10 don't have toilets (6,332)

14. Where mothers die in childbirth (4,753)

15. Malaria at its deadliest (4,648)

16. Landmines still end lives (4,125)

17. Three countries stand in the way of polio eradication (3,901)

18. No Internet -- in the United States (3,823)

19. The saddest of the rich countries (3,682)

20. Where leprosy is still a scourge (2,781)

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

Was your top story chosen? Let us know in the comments.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of John D. Sutter.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:19 PM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
As a woman whose parents had cancer, I have quite a few things to say about dying with dignity.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
David Gergen says he'll have a special eye on a few particular races in Tuesday's midterms that may tell us about our long-term future.
updated 10:52 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
What's behind the uptick in clown sightings? And why the fascination with them? It could be about the economy.
updated 9:01 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
Midterm elections don't usually have the same excitement as presidential elections. That should change, writes Sally Kohn.
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
updated 2:32 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
updated 5:03 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
updated 5:25 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
updated 8:32 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT