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 10:17 AM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT