Old, new and rude chime in on journalism debate

"you should quit your job because you suck"

The above is an exact cut-and-paste from one of the emails I received last week in response to the column I wrote about the now infamous Kai Nagata online essay entitled "Why I quit my job."

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I responded to "Nadine" with a note congratulating her on her eloquent writing style, to which she replied she had to "keep the message simple" for me. This time though Nadine used both punctuation and capital letters in calling me a RWA (right-wing authoritarian follower).

Despite the huge response to my July 13 column, "Why I didn't quit my job," I wasn't planning a followup. That was so last week and there are so many phone hacking scandals to address. But when I returned to the Courier office Tuesday morning after a short holiday, I had almost 500 emails and Twitter mentions from readers who took the time to write. Everyone who takes the time to email or call, whether they agree with me or not, deserves a response. And the nastier the letter, the more polite I am. But when it became obvious I couldn't acknowledge everyone who wrote, mostly in support, and still meet my daily deadlines, I decided on this column. I'd like to begin by thanking the hundreds of readers who sent me messages of support and thanks, including several from high-profile TV broadcasters and columnists, including one that read, "Bravo. Kai Nagata is a self-involved, petulant twit and until we're allowed to kick such people in the ass so hard that we can wear them as slippers, we're going to have to settle for your lovely and eloquent rebuke. But I'd still rather hoof him one. Cheers and thanks for taking the time to swat down this clown."

Other emails from readers were less colourful and simply thanked me for writing in print what they were thinking. Of the hundreds of responses I received, about 80 per cent were in agreement, about 10 per cent disagreed and wrote thoughtful letters addressing their concerns with my column, while the remainder can only be described as anonymous hate mail. One anonymous letter writer explained he/she is a friend of Nagata and together they're an example of a "new breed" of journalist I'm too old to understand. I assume by "new breed" they mean unemployed, because as we all know by now Nagata quit his job, and, by not including their name, the email writer didn't allow me the pleasure of searching for their body of work online. And way to support a friend by not including your name in the email.

Another "new breed" of journalist did sign his name to a thoughtful email, to which I replied would make a good letter to the editor, but since it was well over the Courier's 300-word limit it would have to be shortened. The writer agreed, but asked to see the letter after it was edited. When I wrote back to say cutting it down would be his job, this new breed of journalist replied it would be too much work to shorten the letter and asked if we could instead pay him to run the piece in our editorial pages.

To the few readers who questioned why I didn't address all of Nagata's points let me explain. I have about 640 words to get an opinion across, not 3,000. (Plus an editor who would rather stick knitting needles in his eyes than edit a 3,000-word opinion piece on top of the thousands of words he edits every day.) Speaking of opinions, several anonymous readers decided that while they, and Nagata, are entitled to one, I apparently am not. To which I say, you're welcome to your opinion and thanks for writing. Nagata obviously agrees that everyone is entitled to an opinion. He respectfully retweeted my column while thanking me for keeping the debate on the state of journalism alive.

sthomas@vancourier.com

Twitter @sthomas10

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