Kai Nagata was in a privileged position for a young journalist.
As CTV’s Quebec City Bureau Chief, he had a well-paying position, decision-making power, collegial ties, and even retirement options … all at the age of 24.
And then this:
After I finished reading Kai’s personal essay “Why I quit my job” — an impassioned post about the state of television news in Canada — I had to do more than retweet it.
I think he’s hit a nerve. At time of writing, his original post has generated hundreds of responses and has gone viral on social networking sites. People have called him everything from radical and insane to honest and brave. Many have commented on his age, which reminded me of something Samuel G. Freedman wrote in his book, Letters to a Young Journalist (2006).
Freedman, who teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, praises such critical yet optimistic attitudes in newly minted journalists. He argues that everyone should enter journalism believing it is a moral enterprise and that “your initial idealism must be a pilot light, flickering at times, but never extinguished.”
Good news: outside pressures are now forcing such conversations in journalistic circles, and this period of reflection is an opportunity. Journalism’s public nature and vulnerability is precisely what keeps it alive and changing. Perhaps by necessity, more reporters are taking the time to think about what defines their work, and why it matters.
Kai’s post has expressed why he’s getting out of television journalism, but it has also indirectly challenged other young journalists to ask themselves why they’re getting in. Even though he’s leaving us, I thank him for (re)igniting the conversation about journalism as a public good.
The battle against ignorance, intolerance and indifference is not a new one, not even when it comes to TV news.
I leave you with an excerpt from “Good Night and Good Luck,”. Here’s Edward R. Murrow (played by David Strathairn) on our journalistic duty to make television that matters:
… if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.
This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.