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Chicago Civic Media 



. . .  BUT so Violent 

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and the violence






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every year?

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chicago made itself violent.

CHICAGO can make itself safe.

to make itself safe,
digital-age chicago needs
a digital-age public safety strategy


When you think about it, the key resources of the public safety strategy Chicago needs to make and keep itself safe in a digital age have been staring us in the face all along. 

They are our TV's, computers and cell phones. We just haven't been using them right.

In fact, the uses we've made of them have mostly been counterproductive. However unintentionally, we've used them to make Chicago more violent when all along we could have been using them to make Chicago safe.

In other fields of life - in business and personal communications - we've used the miracle of modern communications technologies to  tran  

How could this be? 

In many fields of endeavor Uses of these devices have constructively transformed life as we know it in other fields of endeavor - business and personal communications - but in the field of public safety this transformation has made life in Chicago more violent.

. Using them in ways that make Chicago safe. Instead, the uses made of them in Chicago have made the city more violent. 

The miracle of modern communications technologies was created to put people in touch with each other. It has done just that in the fields of business and personal communications. But in the field of public safety, it has done the opposite. 

Digital-age Chicago is violent today because it is addressing its digital-age violence with an outmoded and counterproductive holdover public safety from its industrial-age.


Chicago today is living through an explosion citywide of the violence first surfaced in the 1960's with the rise of heavily-armed, drug-dealing, youth-victimizing street gangs.  The wartime levels of violence that the city once was able to contain within poor, non-white city neighborhoods has somehow, and quite suddenly, metastasized.

No neighborhood in Chicago safe today. The city's arteries - its roads, highways, busses and El trains - are now the scenes of random, frequent and often senseless violence. Violent flash mobs, connected by cell phones, have the city's, beaches, elite shopping areas and even iconic Millenneum Park.

rThese were early years of the digital age also saw the rise of nationwide network television and, in Chicago, the alarmist and sensationalized if-it-bleeds-it-leads coverage of gang violence on the TV evening news Once largely contained to poor, non-white neighborhoods by a public safety strategy of violence reduction,   

By 2010, ganthe 2020 police estimate of gang membership was "over 100,000" - the city simply ceded control of huge portions of the city to the gangs.

If having nightmare, you want first to wake up in order to break from its grip. Then get your bearings and, if you're up to it, take appropriate action on whatever's been scaring you in real life, not dreaming.

That's pretty much what the great city of Chicago needs to with  its six-decade nightmare of youth violence, which began

Chicago needs to wake itself up. Not just its leaders, but as a city 2.7 million residents and especially the young people who are not just the victims but all too often the perpetrators of violence, lured or bullied into it by predatory gang leaders.


Waking up from Chicago's nightmare of violence - breaking  free of it, finding viable ways to deal it - above all means stepping back and realizing that six decades into the digital age, Chicago is still addressing its violence with a police-centered public safety strategy of violence reduction that is straight out of the industrial-age. 

Violence reduction in Chicago (as in other American cities) has always been a policy of containment, not unlike America's cold-war policy of containment towards the expanding Soviet Union.


  And perhaps the most accurate thing that can be said about this recent eruption of violence is that is no one knows what to do about it.  

The city needs to wake up. As a great digital-age city of 2.7 million residents who yearn for safety.


A digital-age public safety strategy. Clear to all Chicagoans, especially the victims and the perpetrators of Chicago's violence. Conversely, Chicago's reliance on violence reduction - a police-centered, industrial-age public safety - will only 


Here we are, decades into a digital age that has transformed life as we know it and Chicago (like all American cities) is addressing its digital age violence with the same police-centered, violence reduction public safety strategy that it used in its industrial age. 

In reponse, here are some public safety ideas that may or may not catch on. If nothing else, they point to a safe, digital-age Chicago as opposed to a Chicago completely undone by its current yet ruinously failed public safety strategy of violence reduction.

a defeatist and ruinously failed industrial-age public safety strategy that Chicago needs to abandon if ever it is going to reduce its violence.

Well into the digital age, Chicago is using its police-centered, industrial age strategy of violence prevention to address its digital-age violence.   


Six decades of violence reduction have brought Chicago to where it is today: a great but fractured city where violence in recent months has metastasized to every neighborhood in the city.

2.7 million Chicagoans are more fearful, violent and mistrustful of each other and their leaders than at any time since the rise of heavily-armed, drug-dealing, youth -victimizing street gangs in Chicago in the 1960's.

The lesson of the last six decades? Chicago will either make itself SAFE as a digital-age city or will keep itself violent as a violence-reduction, industrial-age city. 


For decades the remedy for Chicago's violence has been staring us in the face from our device and TV screens.  

The best and perhaps only way Chicago can make itself safe is with safety-purposed uses of the mass media that comprise the city's digital-age public communication system.

Key players in this process are the six local TV networks to which most Chicagoans turn for their local news, sports and  weather. 

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For decades, chiefs of Chicago's hugely overburdened force have pleaded that "we can't do it alone." Nor can Chicago's drastically underfunded public health (medical, social) professionals, despite the public health focus at the  Mayor's Office of Violence Reduction.

As violence reduction itself: it's a dinosaur, a throwback to Chicago's industrial age that's backfired in a digital age. It has no power to move the hearts and minds of Chicagoans. Chicagoans don't yearn for less violence, deep down they yearn for safety. 

Two disruptive digital-age developments compel Chicago (like other American cities) to redefine public safety in terms of public participation:

  • The ubiquity among Chicagoans of all ages of personal cell phones and PC’s

  • The transformative power of Chicago's digital media, especially its network TV stations, to connect or disconnect Chicagoans and their leaders.

These developments necessarily place responsibility for Chicago's safety on

  • Chicagoans of all ages and backgrounds and their leaders, with law enforcement and public health professionals integrated into Chicago's digital-age public safety network.

  • The media that comprise Chicago's digital-age public communications system. Their is to develop and facilitate citywide programming informs, inspires and mobilizes Chicagoans and their leaders to make Sweet Home Chicago


- as Mayor Lightfoot was saying  in 2019

   before COVID and George Floyd

why a partnership of chicagoans
and city hall makes sense

Deep down, all Chicagoans, citizens and leaders alike, yearn for safety. For a city where you can go anywhere without fearing for your life. A city where your kids can walk to school without having to cross a gang line. 

A city where you can feel safe riding the CTA and driving Chicago's roads and highways. Where young people aren't trending North Avenue Beach or killing themselves in Millennium Park.

A city that tourists, conventions and businesses aren't avoiding or abandoning for fear of violence. 

A safe Chicago isn't just possible, it's entirely feasible. It's a matter of how much Chicago - historically, America's "I Will City" - wants to make itself safe as America's first "We Will City".  

Because Chicago's six network TV stations have ample resources to help Chicago MAKE ITSELF SAFE. And the more they do to help Chicago realize this goal, the more they will profit from doing so.

so which media are best equipped
to mobilize chicagoans and city hAll
to make chicago safe?


+The second dominant in Chicago of Chicago's six network TV stations.

And these TV stations rule the roost of Chicago's digital-age public communications system and the print/electronic media that comprise it. Of these stations, five are commercial; the sixth is public and not for profit. 

Soon we'll see how WTTW 11, the public station, can at minimal cost  demonstrate to all five commercial stations the enormous profit potential of mobilizing Chicagoans and their leaders to make Chicago SAFE.  But let's look at the ONE QUALITY that all Chicagoans (city leaders and media included) must earn from each other in for Chicago to make itself SAFE.   

but no partnership

Without a degree of citywide trust, Chicago has zero chance in a digital age of reducing its violence, let alone making itself safe. The reason for this isn't hard to see: given the power of digital-age communications devices (e.g. computers and cell phones) to strengthen or weaken trust in large cities like Chicago, the distribution of these devices among virtually all Chicagoans means that the power to strengthen or weaken trust is now distributed citywide. 

And trust must be earned. And verifiable (trust but verifiy). Trust among citizens and between citizens and City Hall.  And trust in the media programming that fosters trust citywide. Trust makes citizens and City Hall responsive and accountable  to each other for Chicago's digital-age safety. Trust that gives all Chicagoans an informed voice  in the government decisions that affect their lives. Trust that fosters CITIZENSHIP.  

The answer has been staring us in the face all along from the TV screens that rule the roost of Chicago's all-powerful digital-age public communications system.

When these stations start building trust, other Chicago media will follow suit. Because building trust is profitable for all media that connect Chicagoans and City Hall in ways that verifiably help Chicago make itself SAFE. 


That's a digital-age axiom. It follows from the hard fact that disruptive, violence-obsessed uses of digital-age media contribute substantially to the hyperpolarized, mistrustful state of American political discourse today. Gone is the degree of trust in government that gave America political stability during the industrial age. Today, polls show that Americans now fear for America's very future . 

In Chicago,
the only remedy
for media-driven mistrust
in a digital age is media-based
TRUST. Trust that connects Chicagoans of
all ages and backgrounds and gets Chicagoans
and City Hall and working together to make Chicago
a SAFE place to visit, work, play, worship and raise a family in. 
This will happen when Chicago (at long last) wakes from its
six-decade nightmare of self-inflicted violence
and FINALLY decides to use its digital-age
public communications system to
make itself SAFE. 

chicago's trust deficit 

Do Chicagoans trust  

their police? Or City Hall? 

Or each other?  Or Chicago's  

media? Not much! We're too

afraid.  Of violence itself.

And of the violence we

see in media. 

Fear stifles trust.

And fueling this fear 

are six decades of media  

coverage of Chicago's disastrously 

failed efforts to ever reduce its violence. 

Chicago will be helpless to reduce its violence

until it breaks free from the violence reduction 

mindset that keeps it from  asking what it

would take to MAKE CHICAGO SAFE 

for all residents.

For decades, Chicago's

mind-numbing violence reduction 

mindset has lulled Chicagoans into

accepting violence as a hard, unalterable 

fact of Chicago life.  Like brutal Chicago winters.

It never had to be this way. Chicago

could have made itself

SAFE decades ago.

So how does chicago build trust ?

Realizing this goal will make Chicago America's first city to use the miracle of modern interactive communications technologies expressly to make itself SAFE. 

During the industrial age, Chicago was proud of being America's I WILL CITY. Chicago will take pride in being America's first digital-age WE WILL CITY when it replaces its industrial-age, police-centered public safety goal of violence reduction with the digital-age, citizen-participatory goal of SAFETY for all Chicagoans. Chicago will then be poised to make itself 

more on how can CHICAGO
make itself safe

Here's another digital-age axiom: public safety in a digital age is not merely a public safety (police) or even a public health (medical and sociological) problem. It is fundamentally a public communications (media) problem: a matter of uses of media that enable cities to think and act as intelligent communities committed to safety of all members..

Second, Chicago's media, with citizen input, can devise and implement citizen-participator content and programming that   

  • Attract and hold large, citywide audiences

  • Facilitate constructive citizen/government interactions that strengthen citizenship and build TRUST

  • Routinely produce constructive, verifiable safety outcomes that earn the support of Chicagoans and City Hall alike 

  • Be managed and/or governed in ways that maintain their integrity and functionality

  • Be profitable for the media that host them

At Chicago Civic Media we've developed programming that meet these criteria. But they were too costly for local TV stations to produce. So we decided to think SMALL and scaled-down our Chicago SAFE programming for Chicago's TV stations to air at minimal cost. And here's the version we like best . . .   

And guess what? It begins simply.

With two empty chairs.

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Two Chairs on which two Chicago leaders


take their seats


, , , in order to suspend their

hostilities long enough to fulfill a pledge

(made beforehand) to jointly complete, 

on deadline and in full public view, a


that earns a degree of RESPECT and TRUST

from  the people of Chicago . . .

So which two feuding Chicago leaders

would Chicagoans like to see seated

in the two chairs first?


  • MAYOR lightfoot AND COUNTY BOARD PRESIDENT toni preckwinkle


  • Ald. Ervin (28th Ward) and Ald. Villegas (36th Ward)

  • dem. Governor Pritzger and rep. billionaire ken griffin

  • mAYOR lightfoot and ATTORNEY GENERAL kim fox

  • Mayor lightfoot and chicago teachers union LEADERS

  • Mayor lightfoot and forner education secretary arne duncan

  • your ideas!                                                         email us!​ 


and where should this event happen?

WHERE ELSE? on chicago's

tv evening news

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Because tV is where most Chicagoans go for

their local news, sports and weather.



profitable WAY TO host this event.




For sure.

two chairs is a



(when they are meaningful


In violence-ridden Chicago, what enables Chicagoans to take PRIDE in being a Chicagoan these days? Hands down, it's the televised GAMES of Chicago's beloved pro sports teams. This is so In part because Chicagoans TRUST the three-tier rule structure of 1) on-field rules and referees, 2) instant replay and 3) expert commentators that governs all TV sports telecasts.

Here's the thing. Tweaked for civic purposes, this trusted rule structure can do for Chicago's ongoing drive to make itself SAFE exactly what it does for the championship drives of Chicago's pro sports teams:  earn citywide trust.


Chicagoans and City Hall can work together. They can take PRIDE in Chicago as a great American city whose citizens and leaders are firmly committed to citywide safety. Kicking off this digital-age drive for safety is a low-budget Chicago SAFE contest. It starts as a newsmaker interview, though on an intriguing barebones set showing just

which are shortly taken by two city leaders whom viewers to their surprise instantly recognize as publicly feuding leaders. Viewers are witnessing a new TV experience. Their attention is fixed . . .   

and here's what happens next

9  Two Chairs: details and profitability (for media)

So will TWO CHAIRS actually  


OF COURSE NOT. It's only the first of many future Chicago SAFE games intended to inform, inspire and mobilize Chicagoans and City Hall to make Sweet Home Chicago safe. And there's no guarantee that Chicago's media-based games will make Chicago SAGE. The resulting uncertainty and suspense will attract TV viewers and fuel demand for a continuing news story followed by other Chicago (and national) media. This is so in part because Two Chairs from the outset presents itself as a challenge to the I Will City to make itself SAFE as a digital-age We Will City.

The stakes could hardly be higher. Whenever two feuding leaders fulfill their Two Chairs pledges on time, they BOTH win. So does Chicago. Big time. Whenever they don't, they both lose. So does Chicago. BIG TIME.

In Two Chairs there will be wins and losses, as in any sport, as other pairs of feuding Chicago leaders play the game, having seen the benefits to Chicago and their political careers of doing so. Win or lose, Chicago's drive for SAFETY goes on, like the championship drives of Chicago's pro sports teams.  And the long it goes, the more the quality of play improves, and the safer Chicago gets.

With Two Chairs, Chicago has the chance to turn its six-decade vicious cycle of failed efforts at violence reduction into a virtuous cycle committed to citywide safety.

two chairs is new

It's fresh. A entirely new use of TV. No American city has ever seen, let alone tried, anything like it before. Two Chairs will be the talk of the town when it airs. Its large audience will spur other media to imitate it. And they will do so at no cost because with partial (temporary) exceptions, all CCM projects are public domain and free for anyone to use. (CCM funds itself with consultant fees.)


will have outcomes determined by viewer votes, as on reality TV shows like American Idol,  In  so doing, they  will reflect and contribute to the great game of voter-driven American democracy itself. These non-partisan, non-ideological and issue-centered TV games will make Chicagoans and their leaders responsive and accountable to each other in Chicago's drive not only to make itself SAFE but to address any and all matters of citywide concern. In future Chicago SAFE games, City Hall will work closely with

 Chicago's number one digital-age

public safety resource: THE


well, looking from the publicly-owned lakefront that
daniel burnham gave chicago in 1909 . . .

Since 1990 Chicago Civic Media
has designed dynamic multimedia formats to
give all Chicagoans an informed voice in the
government decisions that affect their lives.