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It wasn’t that long ago when town squares were the center of a community’s life. When confronted by tough issues, people met there formally and informally to hash out problems and possible solutions.

The Nine Network takes old-fashioned community conversation to a new-fashioned level with the weekly series Stay Tuned, which uses the latest technology to bring people face to face for in-depth discussions of issues important to the long term vitality of the region.

Guided by host Casey Nolen the conversation each week focuses on one topic, and participants contribute using a full range of technologies, from television to Twitter, Facebook and Google+Hangouts. The live broadcast relies on participation from the community and a seamless integration of social media.

The core of the production takes place in the Nine Network’s Nine Center for Public Engagement, which has been transformed into an expansive television studio for the broadcasts. Nolen launches each week by introducing the topic, using data, facts, experts, journalists and community members to illustrate why as a community we should care about the issue and offer solutions to what can be done to address the issue.

Stay Tuned builds on the Nine Network’s role as a trusted convener,” says Nine Network President and CEO Jack Galmiche. “We are connecting people around the issues that are most important to them and their communities.”

Stay Tuned represents a joint effort by the Nine Network of Public Media and the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri Columbia to spur meaningful conversation and provide a pathway for people to connect and impact the community. The convergence of technologies and people who come together for each live program presented dozens of technical and engineering challenges, requiring weeks of rehearsals to coordinate or fine tune elements such as camera movements, control room switching and lighting. The result is a groundbreaking series that maximizes public participation.

“We have thrown the script out the window,” says Nolen, who is also a multimedia journalist at KSDK. “We’re taking risks and trying to do something different in terms of format. It gives me the space to think. So much of television and our lives is very fast. Stay Tuned gives us all the space to think and go deeper on issues.”