A lot has been made in the past week about an essay written by former CTV broadcast reporter Kai Nagata in which he explains why he quit his job.
Initially, I didnt read the entire 3,000-plus-word manuscript so by the time I got to the end I still had no idea why this 24-year-old, self-proclaimed wunderkind actually did quit his job. In fact, the only reason I gave his thesis more than a cursory glance was because so many journalists I respect, some of whom Im lucky enough to call friends, were posting it on Facebook and Twitter in a frenzy akin to that of the Royal Visit. Thats #RV to those in Twitterville.
It was after I got to the part about him being 24 years old that I tuned out, but later forced myself to finish all nine pages I printed off prior to writing this column. Thats 10 minutes of my life, and at least one tree, Ill never get back.
On his job as CTVs Quebec City bureau chief, Nagata writes, But I would say, humbly, that I didnt just meet expectationsI excelled. In everything I was asked to do, I performed consistently at a level above my experience.
To that I say, good for you. And good on your parents for raising a son with such a healthy ego. Nagata notes while he was gainfully employed as a television broadcaster, he never lowered himself to own a TV. Wow. Thats akin to me claiming that as much as I appreciate my position as a reporter with the Courier, I would never waste my time reading a newspaper. But somehow even with his disdain for TV, Nagata obviously spent a lot of time watching it because he has a lot of opinions about how morally corrupt the business of telling the news has become.
He writes, There are also watchdogs with varying degrees of clout. But these entities have no enforcement capacity. Underneath this lies the fact that information is a commodity, and private TV networks are supposed to make money. All stations, publicly funded or not, want to maintain or expand their viewership. This is what Ill call the elephant in the room.
If Nagata truly believes the fact many viewers would rather watch the Royal Visit than real news happening in Bangkok, Misrata, Athens, Washington, and around the world is the elephant in the room, its a wonder he hasnt been trampled. I actually think its sweet Nagatas naïve enough to assume no one else is astute enough to notice.
Nagata also comments on the superficial aspect of broadcast TV. He writes, The idea has taken root that if the people reporting the news look like your family and neighbours, instead of Barbie and Ken, the station will lose viewers.
Im sure that at some stations theres real pressure to look like Ken and Barbie. Come to think of it, the pressure for Rex Murphy, Terry Milewski and Peter Mansbridge to remain national sex symbols must be fierce, so Im with Nagata on that one.
So here, in fewer than 3,000 words, is why I didnt quit my job.
On a personal level Im not 24, I have bills, responsibilities and a love of this community I can only afford to live in because of my paycheque. Speaking of community, I feel an even deeper sense of responsibility to readers who call, email and take the time to write letters, asking for help in everything from an injustice theyve suffered to raising awareness about health issues, to fundraising for non-profits to proposed developments. I didnt quit my job because every day Im inspired by my co-workers who do the same and who work hard to tell the stories that make up this city, despite the fact we all work for corporate media.
I also didnt quit my job because as a journalist I have an obligation to find and tell the truth no matter how much pressure there is, no matter how much people would rather read about Will and Kate, no matter the nasty letters to the editor and no matter what frustrations we face in a small newsroom with few resources.
Finally, I didnt quit my job because as a journalist I refuse to give up, pack up my truck and drive away into the sunset.