April 21. Talk about seeding civic media. I LOVE this idea. Here’s why it’s important. At a time when default rates on students loans are soaring, this reality TV civic media format mimics the structure of an icon of American life – the NCAA basketball tournament – to create an extended battle of wits and ideas that empowers college students, educators and other Americans to address and solve a superhot problem of vital importance to students and the nation.
- Target Audience: college students, their parents, anyone concerned with the future of American education (conservatively 100 million people.)
- Topic: Student Loans. Problem to be solved : Making college affordable. (Promote the contest using the first topic – an attention grabber – and focus on the second, which pits ALL possible solutions to the problem against each other in a contest to see which solution is best for students, universities and America.
- Contest Structure: Use the reality TV format described here and integrate it with the bracket structure of the NCAA basketball tournament. This civic media contest has two phases or rounds The first round consists of eight separate, simultaneous first-level contests in Big 10, Big East, Pac 10, Southeastern Conference, Ivy League and independent universities pluse two more brackets for academics, university presidents and/or the companies that make student loans. (Anyone left out?) This level occurs online, on any number of websites that are gathered together in a single official tournament website. This robust site enables participants and viewers to follow, participate and vote – frequently – on the action as it occurs in the eight separate brackets. The second level round is both online and televised. It pits the eight winning teams of the first-round brackets in a single elimination contest that moves from an Elite Eight to a Final Four and that concludes with a final two-team contest to determine both the 1) contest winner (best presentation) and 2) best solution (as determined by criterion that have been broadcast from the beginning of the tournament.
- Ideal TV Host: CNBC financial channel, Discovery Channel, NCAA channels.
- Team Makeup: To be determined. Team size might range from four to eight or even twelve members. Key roles to be filled include primary and secondary spokespersons, researcher, cameraman, webmaster and perhaps faculty advisor.
- Prizes and Awards Is a trophy sufficient?
- Timing of tournament: Time the second (televised) level of the contest to precede or follow the NCAA tournament. Participants should know that team membership is a major extracurricular activity, comparable to playing on a varsity team or writing for a college newspaper.
- Sponsorship and Governance. I treat these topics in my 2006 proposal for America’s Choice. Part I is here. Part II, which covers these topics, is available to people who contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org