An Open Letter to the General Managers of Seven Chicago TV Stations About the Next Big Thing in Chicago TV

Chicago Civic Media
3 min readJan 23, 2020

From Steve Sewall, Chicago Civic Media


Channel 2 WBBM-TV — Derek Dalton, President and General Manager
Channel 5 WMAQ-TV — David Doebler, President and General Manager
Channel 7 WLS-TV — John Idler, President and General Manager
Channel 9 WGN-TV — Paul Rennie, President and General Manager
Channel 11 WTTW — Sandra Cordova Micek, President and CEO
Channel 32 WFLD-TV — Dennis Welsh, VP and General Manager
Chicago Access Network TV— Jim McVane, Executive Director

Dear General Managers:

I am proud to introduce you to the next big thing in Chicago TV.

It’s ChicagoWRKS, a voter-driven reality TV contest whose airing of Chicago’s ongoing, competitive drive to find best solutions to violence and other seemingly unsolvable problems will spark in Chicagoans (and Chicagolanders) the same deep pride that they take in the televised championship drives of Chicago’s beloved pro sports teams.

The time for ChicagoWRKS is now, as this New Chicago Way piece explains.

Solving Chicago’s violence should be the first challenge for ChicagoWRKS, given

  • The horrendous human and financial tolls that wartime levels of violence continue to take on Chicago.
  • Mayor Lightfoot’s frequent promises to work with all Chicagoans — to “mobilize the entire city” — to make Chicago “the safest big city in the United States.”
  • The need to counter Chicago’s image as America’s urban violence poster child by showing Chicagoans and City Hall working together to make Chicago as safe as New York (a benchmark safe city).

So how does ChicagoWRKS work? It’s modeled on contests like American Idol and The Voice. Following extensive citywide auditions, it pits 16 4-member selected teams of talented, telegenic Chicagoans competing and cooperating with each other to develop and advance best ways of reaching a universally desired goal, such as making Chicago safe.

Weekly viewer votes select winning solutions and winning teams on the basis of

  • Rigorous vetting of team presentations by panels of citizens and experts, including Chicago’s mayor
  • Citywide discussion of teams and solutions at home, at school, at work and in Chicago’s media.

Winning solutions, large and small, are sent on to City Hall (on an advisory basis) or to other groups for implementation.

ChicagoWRKS’ rules and procedures bring out the best in citizens and public officials alike. They earn citywide respect and trust by mirroring the respected three-level rule structure (of on-field referees, instant replay and expert commentary) that governs sports telecasts.

ChicagoWRKS is an expensive production, costing perhaps $25 million in its first season of 24 weekly programs. That said, its profitability for TV stations that host it resides in the link between profits and citizenship that’s fast becoming a dominant feature of the American media landscape.

ChicagoWRKS exploits TV’s unmatched power to aggregate the Market of the Whole of all 12.7 million Chicago and Chicagoland residents of all ages and backgrounds. Because while many of us are sports fans or music lovers, all of us are citizens.

ChicagoWRKS is all about good citizenship. Much of the tab for it is picked up by socially responsible corporations committed to serving their communities as good citizens.

My name is Steve Sewall. I’m the creator of ChicagoWRKS and a career Chicago educator. I direct Chicago Civic Media, a Chicago-based incubator of interactive media platforms. Since 1990 our multimedia innovations have empowered hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans of all ages and backgrounds to do useful things like joining their CPS Local School Councils and making their neighborhoods safe.

The WRKS concept is scalable to work at local, state and national levels. I’ve placed it in the public domain. I will consult with media outlets and other stakeholders that value my vision as its creator.

I would be more than happy to discuss ChicagoWRKS with you. I appreciate your consideration.


Steve Sewall, Ph.D.

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More information about ChicagoWRKS is at the New Chicago Way GoFundMe. The CCM archive, with latest publications, is at I’m at CCM’s four-part Medium post makes a fuller case for ChicagoWRKS. Our ChicagoWRKS Information Page goes even further.

Steve Sewall, Ph.D., is a Chicago educator and Director of Chicago Civic Media.



Chicago Civic Media

Making citizens and governments responsive and accountable to each other at all levels of government with impartial, problem-solving political discourse.