The Dreadnought Moment – KETC becoming the real new TV

What do I mean by the “Dreadnought Moment”?


In the 19th century, navies all over the world experimented to find the new model for the capital ship.

Like most organizations today who are trying to find the new model for the enterprise in the pub media context, so steel, steam and big guns meant that the wooden capital ship had to go.

So over the century, designers added these new features in a piecemeal fashion – wooden hulls were replaced by iron and then steel. Sails were reduced and then fully replaced by steam – reciprocating engines by turbines. Gun size increased. Turrets were introduced.

The ship on the left in the image above was the great capital ship of its time – about 1876 – it was called the Inflexible – no pun intended. It’s captain was Jackie Fisher who went on the be the First Sea Lord who commission Dreadnought – the ship on the right in about 1906.

Inflexible looked modern. It had all the new bits in some form – like many Pub Media stations or organizations. It had a Facebook account, Twitter, a blog etc.

But in reality Inflexible was not modern at all.


Here is HMS Victory in 1805 at the Battles of Trafalgar. Why Inflexible was not modern was that while she had all the new stuff – she was a prisoner of the culture of the Nelsonic tradition.

The core of her mindset set was that war was an heroic activity where the main point was to get as close as possible – many times touching the enemy and to use training and discipline to pour it on. Part of this culture demanded that the officer corps were men of character – read class was the key.

What Fisher saw that made Dreadnought so much a disrupter is that it had at the core of its design an entirely new mindset.

Battle was to be done at a distance – miles apart. All the smaller guns of Inflexible meant for close engagement could be disposed of. The key relationship was different. Dreadnought could sink the entire German fleet at the time on its own!

Secondly, engineering and technical ability was more important than class. Fisher set in motion events in officer recruitment and training that would open up the service to people who could offer this.

I fear that most organizations are doing an Inflexible. They pride themselves that they have all the bells and whistles but they have not put it all together AND they have not made the organizational changes to make the new WHOLE work as en entity.

But KETC in St Louis is building its Dreadnought now – building a new organization based on the values and the technology that changes the core relationship with the people outside and the people inside.

The Nine Network is the Dreadnought – a physical realization of all the new relationships and tools of the new.

Nine Network View 1

More than a plan – the Nine Network will be ready in March 2010.

Nine Network KETC Plan

So what is in this room and why?

  • Community News Pro – KETC is one of a handful of any Pub TV stations with a “News” function. The Beacon is a group of professional journalists – many from the Post Dispatch – who have come together into a network and who share premises with KETC. The Beacon have been recognized by the Knight Foundation as a key pioneer. They are also the only Pub TV partner who are using Public Insight Journalism. The Beacon represent the future of post newspaper local news.
  • The Community itself – You see here the Community Room – KETC has pioneered convening the community to come together and to thus get stronger in dealing with pressing issues. The Facing the Mortgage Crisis Project not only helped bring together a wide range of St Louis Community organizations such as the United way and Beyond Housing but also helped nearly 70 other stations in 30 plus of the worst hit cities do the same in their cities. Meeting face to face with community organizations has become commonplace. Our Community Room is more than just a meeting room – it is a fully equipped media room. KETC has given the communities of St Louis a voice and a place to come together. Intractable issues such as diabetes, education, jobs etc can all be worked at here at the ground level.
  • The Nine Network – A working “school” that helps the community get the skills to broaden their voice and power. The space just up from the Beacon is the Nine Network space. Here KETC will train interns and young St Louisans how use the new media to tell stories – for it is not just knowing how to use the tools but how to use them to effect that is the key. The focus of the Nine Network is not to teach the skills on their own but to use projects such as stories on St Louis, News items for the Beacon. The “students” will be like Midshipmen of the RN back in the time of Trafalgar – treated like grow ups with real jobs to do that help the whole “ship”. All the online world of KETC and the sweet spot where the online world AND TV come together will come from this full integration of the On Air and the On Line world.
  • New Values of Community First – The Nine has TV, Web Video, Community and Journalism all in one space all feeding off and supporting each other. Most importantly the POV is to listen first to the community and to bring the community into everything that we do. This more than any other part of the Nine is the most important. Just as for Dreadnought – distance and technical skill were the values shift. The Nine, like the Dreadnought, brings it all together in one human space.

Nine classes

Classes will begin in January.

With the launch of the Nine Network’s physical space – KETC – will have a de facto new organization that does the Dreadnought – that embodies the new culture and that brings all the new and the old TOGETHER!

Watch this space as more is on its way.