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.

Convening Community to solve bog complex problems – Future of Pub Media?

Social Media for what? As the shadows lengthen, I am seeing that the new role for public media is not simply to bring you Jane Austen on Sundays – though that is worthy – but to use the trust evoked in a generation public TV and radio to help us as citizens help each other face terrible times.

The mortgage crisis is now clearly not just about a few people who should have known better, as many like to see it, but is a crisis so deep and wide that it has the power to doom not only individuals but cities. As houses fall, so do streets, the blocks then neighborhoods and then entire cities. Loss of taxes will shutter schools, loss of taxes will neuter governments, loss of mobility and loss of value will shut down people. So the financial cancer spreads until maybe America comes to a halt.

So what to do? This is where social media will I think play it’s most important role – that of empowering people to come together and to help each other. This is I think where the history books will tell the story – not that Facebook or My Space were cool, not that business finally got it. No I think the story will be that Social Media enabled the rise of Community Power and that it was Community Power that helped America through these times. That it was Community Power that replaced machine Democracy and restored the Republic.

Big claim! So here are some early signs – you can see this great power stir before your eyes


KETC, a client of mine, the Public TV Channel in St Louis, has been chosen by CPB to test how well a public TV station can be in Convening the wider community of its city to come together and help each other cope with a giant crisis. Here is a link to the background.

I am writing today to offer up an early report. This week we held the first on air/web town hall meeting.

For the first time St Louisans could see that they were not alone. The room was full of all sorts of people. St Louisans could see the enormous amount of help that was there for them. They could hear stories of all the things that could happen for bad or good. They could feel hope.

The show (links part 1 – part 2 – part 3 – part 4) was masterful. First of all it set the context – it gave the whole story. Then the full range of risks and remedies were explored.

As I watched this show, I felt as I had after Robin’s cancer diagnosis when we met the wonderful team of people who saved her life. I felt that while the situation was dire, that I might lose not my home but my wife, that we had the benefit of a great team and of the best that medicine could offer – we knew what we were up against. We knew that we had a chance. We had hope whereas before we had only fear.

I thought that I knew it all before the show. But I didn’t. In an hour, Ruth had covered the full story. No sound bites here. The full story!

The last segment was for me the most gripping. Here the show is opened up to the audience, to callers and those on the web. Here the voice of the community spoke. The dignity of the people and the panel was something to behold. The barriers between the helpers and the helped were eliminated. Something important happened.

The full impact was also revealed.

This is much more than a person losing their home. This is about the ripple effect that kills blocks, kills communities and in the end can doom the city. The ripple effect affects us all.

Next week we have a second show. This time we will focus on the the ripple effect – how can St Louisans work together to protect their communities? How can the people save their city?

Of course what you see on TV is merely the surface. If you look at the video, you will see The Swan – You will see the show but behind the scenes the feet are paddling hard under the surface.

The guys at KETC are paddling like fury all over the city and the state connecting people to help and more important connecting the help to the help. Have a look at the credits at the end of part 4.

This is the hard graft – many organizations, I call them Nodes of Trust, are meeting each other for the first time and seeing how much they can do to help each other do a better job.

Many are also seeing that the mortgage crisis itself is only part of a much more dangerous threat, the Ripple, that has the power to take the entire city down.

This is why I make the claim I do. I can think of only one way to dig our way out of this mess – to connect the people so that they can take charge themselves. Social Media and stations like KETC are the way to make these connections.

Many are starting to see that many who got caught were not foolish but unfortunate or worse exploited.

St Louisan are starting to feel that they might have a chance of beating this – a chance not because of false hope or exhortation but hope drawn from meeting other good men and women and seeing that together they can make an impact. Seeing that they are not helpless.

I think that KETC is on its way to prove out the hopes of CPB – that Public Media can be seen as a powerful force for good in their community. For who else can do this work? Who else can act as the convenor in these tough times?

Can Public Media use Social Software to help with complex problems such as the Mortgage Crisis?

How would you feel today, if you stood to lose your house and all around you the media were labeling you as stupid and deserving of being put on the street?

How would you feel if you were struggling to save your house, but all around you those  who said that they were there to help you, were really just jackals waiting to prey on your carcass?

How would you feel if you have lots of what you thought was equity in your house, if 20% of the houses in your community were being sold at auction for a few thousand dollars?

What kind of city or place will you live in if say 20% of the people there have learned that they have been fooled, betrayed and abandoned by their society?

This is a graph of how the SARS epidemic spread. This is how all social epidemics spread. This is the risk before us!

I think that if lots of people feel this way that there is going to be hell to pay. For I think that the real threat of the subprime crisis is social.

The science behind the Tipping Point tells us that if there is momentum and and if the “Chasm” of about 15% is crossed the system Tips. If 15-20% of the people in your city feel that they have no support or hope, then there is a good chance that your city will Tip.I am saying that if you think that you are OK while large swathes of your city become ghost towns – watch out for the Zombies and watch out for your tax base, your own equity, crime and your way of life.

I am not saying that the “Cure” is to save every person’s house. I am saying that if people affected cannot get Trusted help and in the end trusted support, they will not only lose their house but get very angry. This is when the pitchforks and torches come into town.

So why am I posting this in a blog where the focus is Social Media? Because at its core the subprime mortgage problem is no longer merely financial nor is it confined to a few people. It is now becoming a social problem – it is largely now about isolation, abandonment and and soon it will be about betrayal.

People who are affected directly find it exceptionally difficult to find help that they can trust. People who are directly affected are often in shock too and hence are shut down and will not trust official help – after all it was the system that told them that borrowing was going to be OK. People who are directly affected feel shame and feel shamed. Many must feel like many returning vets from Vietnam. The are being told that the subprime crisis is all their fault. The commercial media are telling them that we do not care about them.

Many others are smug. I am OK. This is not about about me. My nice middle class or upper class area is safe. But of course it’s not and nor will it be as the ripple spreads

Others see the business opportunity. Facebook and the web are full of people now lining up to exploit the crisis. Houses can be bought at auction for hundreds of dollars. The same forces that put millions in jeopardy are now fighting over the scraps.

Here is the overview by region.

Here is an overview by house price change.

All our research tells us is that this is not the end but the beginning.

As I see it, the issue is larger than a person losing their home. The real risk is that too many people in a city will give up on being a citizen. They will give up not simply because they lost their home but because they think that they have been betrayed. They went for the Dream and they were taken for a ride.

So what can we do? Can we save every home? Should we save every home? Can we save every home?

I think the answer is no to all of those questions. But I think we can do this:

  • If we can find real help that can be trusted – we can help those that can be helped to save their house
  • If we can connect people in trouble to each other, they can maybe help others save their homes and ALSO get the emotional support that they need
  • If we can show to the larger community that we are all involved, then we can end the blame and the shame and we can mobilize the entire community – as we are seeing in the Iowa Floods – for this is a collective disaster.
  • If we can show that people are no longer helpless then hope will return
  • At worst, if we can show that you can lose your home and still be OK, then we will really achieved something for what we will have done is shown that there is a community and that it does care about you. That the Dream is not dead.

A public TV station that has no ax to grind may have the essential trust to take up this work. A Public TV station that does its best to learn how to use Social Media might have a chance.

KETC, Channel 9, in St Louis has been chosen by CPB to develop a template and a set of tools for Public TV that will have a real shot at ensuring that that we might be able to do this. We have until the end of August to make a difference.

We are going to need your help.

I will do my best to tell you what we are doing – as we try stuff. Please let me know what you think.

As a start I need to find some well connected bloggers in St Louis. If you are one or know one please let me know in the comments.