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Nine Network's Stay TunedLike so many collaborations — and maybe marriages — The Donald W. Reynolds Institute project with KETC-TV in St. Louis started with casual conversation that quickly turned hyper serious.

Jack Galmiche — CEO of the NineNetwork, including KETC and three other television signals — said he wanted a new kind of journalism to explore the big issues facing the St. Louis Metropolitan Region.

And I wanted an adventure in television news. After 40 years of managing daily news stories in commercial newsrooms, I knew all too well that local stations have mostly abdicated the role of in-depth public service journalism.

And then the conversation got serious-er….

Galmiche said his city needs a “convener” to bring the meek and the powerful in the St. Louis area together for community building. His NineNetwork already plays that role, but he said he wanted to do more.

And I said American television journalism needs to retake its role as a public service agent — not just a product-producer. And, in fact, I worry that the nightly television newscasts pander as much as they inform.

Galmiche, as a member of the Public Broadcast System board of directors, told me he was willing to be the experiment for all public broadcasters.

As a long time faculty member at the Missouri School of Journalism — and for the past decade its chairman of the Radio-Television Journalism Faculty — I told him I was willing to take a risk in hopes of adding something good to television journalism.

So back in March, we agreed in that unscheduled hour-long conversation on the Mizzou campus to set about making a “new genre of television journalism.”

Our program would utilize the stars of his award-winning television station, one of the richest public television operations in the country. And our program would utilize Missouri’s “journalism muscle,” known and boasted about for 104 years.

Backgrounder # 1:

The Communications Act of 1934 directed radio stations (amended later to include the new-fangled tv box) to provide commercial-free programming in the public service, a trade-off for using the public airwaves. Over the years some good and some truly awful public affairs programs were broadcast. Most of them included four over-weight middle-aged white journalists at a table asking the lieutenant governor why he is/was such an important guy. The content was so important that general managers scheduled these programs for 7 a.m. Sunday — until, of course, local churches offered to buy the time to show their sunrise services and Bible readings.

In the 1980s, the Reagan Administration’s de-regulation campaign put asunder most public service broadcasts.

Backgrounder # 2:

The Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism found some potential in our brag that we could develop a “new genre of television journalism.”

We agreed after discussion too wonk-ish to relate here, on this mission for our work:

To put social media on steroids before, during and after the KETC weekly program and see if we can make the public forum (a key element of journalism, if you believe Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach, authors of The Elements of Journalism) broader and more diverse.

That’s our charge. After two months of rehearsals (some of them quite painful), we premiered Nov. 8 at 9 p.m. It wasn’t beautiful, but it was the rough draft of what we hope will become a “new genre of television journalism,” driven in large part by the citizenry who will come to us via hyper-ized social media.

The program is STAY TUNED. It airs at 9 p.m. Thursday. You can go to staytuned.ninenet.org and watch it any time.

(Next time in this space: Using Google+ Hangouts to make that public forum broader and more diverse. It’s harder than it looks. We’ve learned lessons you can use.)

Read more about Stay Tuned in December’s nineMagazine.

Read the Nine Network announcement from November.

Kent Collins  
 
University fellow



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