Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

The people have spoken!

By John D. Sutter, CNN
June 18, 2013 -- Updated 1236 GMT (2036 HKT)
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
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1259 GMT (2059 HKT)
You could be forgiven for thinking no one cares -- or even should care, right now -- about climate change, writes CNN's John Sutter. But you'd be mistaken.
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 2132 GMT (0532 HKT)
David Gergen says the White House's war against ISIS is getting off to a rough start and needs to be set right
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1917 GMT (0317 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says making rude use of the Mexican flag on Mexican independence day in a concert in Mexico was extremely tasteless, but not an international incident.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1359 GMT (2159 HKT)
Michael Dunn is going to stand trial again after a jury was unable to reach a verdict; Mark O'Mara hopes for a fair trial.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1927 GMT (0327 HKT)
Laurence Steinberg says the high obesity rate among young children is worrisome for a host of reasons
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT