When Kai Nagata quit his job as CTV’s Quebec Bureau Chief in July and drove across the country in a pickup truck, he was reincarnated as a highly insightful, alternative media shape-shifter. Nagata’s fall from grace landed him a job at the online news source The Tyee as writer-in-residence, where the Vancouver native will practice journalism in a less stifled mainstream media environment.
“Can we salvage TV news?” asked Nagata, pointing out that the CEO of CTV used to sell Kit Kat bars in Ohio, and that his credentials are well suited to what is being sold on CTV.
“Something is wrong, and it’s a case of too much sugar and not enough medicine,” he said at UVic last Tuesday during his tour kickoff presentation. “I have decided that TV news is not a medium that I can put another day into. Not to say that we didn’t try.”
Much of Nagata’s personal blog post, that ripped through social media like a B.C. forest fire, pertained to the hardworking nature of many TV news reporters in this country who are forced through the failing corporate bottleneck that pours out our nightly newscast.
Nagata says he is in the lab right now running experiments on zero-budget journalism. He wants to leverage free technology, mixing the tradition of journalism holding up democracy with contemporary tactics.
“I’ve got a blog, a Twitter account, a borrowed laptop from The Tyee and a half-paidoff pickup truck — so I’ve got resources . . . I’m totally committed to continuing my work. But the question is: in what form? What’s the blueprint?” said Nagata. “That’s why I’m here to ask you what you want out of Canadian journalism. That’s why I’m doing this tour.”
Nagata’s relative success and prestige in mainstream media, considering his age of 24, have been speculatively attributed to his ambiguously ethnic appeal and multicultural name. However, a strict work ethic, willingness to accept sacrifices and the motivation to work his ass off have proved steadfast in his transitioning career.
His insights into the inner mechanics of big media are humbling and angering. He exposes the struggling and understaffed light in which corporate media is often portrayed, while also confessing that the airtime allows a narrow spectrum of views. The image he paints is an industry in a fight for its life — if it hasn’t died already.
“Canada, among the G8 countries, has the least public funding, and CBC is understaffed. The fact that I shop-talked on Twitter just blew their minds. So they’re getting lapped by these kids on Twitter in Libya,” said Nagata. “There are people who are doing visual journalism that are more qualified to tell the story than some news anchor that shows up in a hotel, walking around in a tight t-shirt talking about this revolution.”
In Nagata’s pilot presentation at UVic, he alluded to an exclusive documentary story that he is seeking funding for and presented a challenge to big media.
“You have a media culture that doesn’t reflect the reality of the voting pattern of the public that it supposedly serves . . . I think the burden of proof is on these media organizations to prove that they don’t have a corporate bias,” he said.
A lot of Nagata’s criticisms about big media are old news in many alternative media environments. The “Why I Quit My Job” manifesto posted on his personal blog has received criticism for overshadowing and overlooking the work of many long-standing alternative media perspectives. Nagata has made friends and enemies in various places on the media spectrum, and many are holding their breaths to see where this media chameleon will end up.
Nagata’s reincarnation, seen as both a descent and an ascent in media culture, poses an interesting question: has Kai Nagata struck a nerve with the inadequacies of a polarized Canadian media, or is he just another good journalist who got lost in the corporate empire?
“It’s a blend of both. I mean, I think that if I’ve got Post Media attacking me and I’ve got The Dominion attacking me, then I’ve probably got that Goldilocks spot right in the middle and the porridge is just the right temperature,” he says.