Thursday, July 14, 2011

A look at the underbelly of TV journalism

And this time, not from the U.S., but from Canada.

Oh, Canada! Could it be so bad as Kai Nagata (formerly of the CBC) laid out in his 3,000-word post on why he quit as CTV's Quebec City bureau chief?

The most quoted quote from Nagata, 24: So I didn’t quit my job because I felt frustrated or that my career was peaking. I quit my job because the idea burrowed into my mind that, on the long list of things I could be doing, television news is not the best use of my short life. The ends no longer justified the means.

But here's also another:
I have serious problems with the direction taken by Canadian policy and politics in the last five years. But as a reporter, I feel like I’ve been holding my breath. Every question I asked, every tweet I posted, and even what I said to other journalists and friends had to go through a filter, where my own opinions and values were carefully strained out. Even then I’m not sure I was always successful, but I always knew at the CBC and subsequently at CTV that there were serious consequences for editorial. Within the terms of my employment at CTV, there was a clause in which the corporation (now Bellmedia) literally took ownership of my intellectual property output. If I invented a better mouse trap, they owned the patent. If I wrote a novel, they got a cut. Rhymes on the back of a napkin? Bellmedia is hip to the jive, yo. And if I ever said anything out of line with my position as an “objective” TV reporter, they had grounds to fire me. I had a sinking feeling when I first read that clause, but I signed because I was 23 and I wanted the job. Now I want my opinions back.

We can now cue the ongoing and seemingly never-ending debate about whether postmodern journalism can exist without an acknowledgment that objectivity is dead - long live transparency and knowing where the journalist is coming from.
In a nutshell, Nagata trots out many of the same criticisms we've often heard about shallowness, chasing the royals when there is "real news," ideology passing for news, etc. Read it and make your own decision. From my days in TV and my continuing association with those in that end of the business, it certainly rings true, but is it too strident, or perhaps not strident enough?

The CBC follows up with a chat with Nagata and a link to a slightly snarky response from a National Post reporter. (In essence: What? Nagata discovers journalism is a business that has some boundaries? Heavens me.)

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