How Chicago Can Solve Violence and Make Itself Safer Than New York (Part III)

Can Reality TV shows like The Voice help Chicago (and other cities) solve violence?

by Steve Sewall, Chicago Civic Media. Updated 6/28/18.

From Part I and Part II. To Part IV. And here is Has Violence Reduction Failed?

On a typical season of American Idol and The Voice, you see national auditions that produce 16 talented individual performers of all ages and backgrounds competing in a season-long contest to choose the best performer. The best performer wins, by a series of weekly viewer votes.

On the first season of ChicagoWRKS, you will see citywide auditions that produce 16 four-member teams of gifted and entertaining problem-solvers of all ages and backgrounds competing (and cooperating) in a season-long contest to select the best team and any number of best (and lowest cost) solutions to violence, large and small. The best team and best solutions win, by viewer votes. So does Chicago and the Chicagoland region.

So how do ChicagoWRKS teams and solutions win (or lose) citywide respect and support? To win, they must pass all kinds of tests and challenges coming from policy experts, stakeholders on both sides of the law and of all ages and backgrounds … and City Hall.

And how does the ChicagoWRKS show itself earn the trust and respect of citizens and city leaders alike?

It creates a level playing field whose respected rules, productive roles and exciting rewards win citywide respect and trust.

Its rules are derived from the same three-level rule structure of on-field referees, instant replay and professional commentary that earns the respect and trust of athletes, commentators and viewers of pro sports telecasts.

Respect and trust in ChicagoWRKS is a function of the fact that for first time in its history, Chicagoans are actually see their leaders and themselves thinking and acting in real time as a city. It’s reality TV for real.

ChicagoWRKS changes forever the way Chicago does politics. It helps Chicago restore functionality to its currently less than fully functional political system.

The great city planner Daniel Burnham, if he could see ChicagoWRKS, would observe that Chicago is developing a digital infrastructure of print and electronic public forums to compare with the physical infrastructure of boulevards, parks and lakefront laid out in his magnificent 1903 Plan of Chicago.

And what do both plans have in common? Burnham’s answer, in his Plan of Chicago, is that “good citizenship is the prime object of good city planning.”

Chicago, he might add, is evolving from its manufacturing-age I Will Cityidentity to a digital-age We Will City identity.

We should add that ChicagoWRKS has a precursor. In 2013, the Chicago Tribune launched its Burnham-inspired New Plan of Chicago.

The New Plan is a great idea. But only readers of the Tribune’s opinion and editorial pages got to see it.

Since then, Tribune’s New Plan has languished for the simple reason that the vast majority of Chicagoans have yet to hear of it.

As we wrote at length (and a little whimsically) at the time, Chicagoans will never secure an active, informed voice in city affairs until their media are informing and connecting them much as Chicago’s media inform and connect the fans Chicagos’ beloved pro sports teams.

This graphic (click to expand it) shows how ChicagoWRKS could be at the center of a media universe as extensive as that of Chicago’s sports teams:

About national media: once broadcasting in Chicago, the ChicagoWRKS goal of making Chicago as safe as New York would instantly command the attention of the national media that have long pilloried Chicago as America’s violence capital.

On to Part IV for more details about how ChicagoWRKS informs and connects.

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

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Chicago Civic Media

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