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The Transition of Kai Nagata

Disenchanted by traditional broadcast, CTV bureau chief Kai Nagata quit his job to turn a blind motorcycle daredevil into an internet star
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Kai Nagata
Ex-CTV bureau chief Kai Nagata Brian Howell

Disenchanted by traditional broadcast, CTV bureau chief Kai Nagata quit his job to turn a blind motorcycle daredevil into an internet star

Two men meet by chance at an airport. One is a TV journalist who has come to believe television news is a corporate Titanic headed toward an iceberg of urgently presented banality. The other is a world-renowned British lutenist on his way to perform a baroque concert in Denver. The first wonders if he dares quit his job as CTV bureau chief in Quebec City—based on nothing more than principle. The second responds with his own story: that he has decided to learn how to drive a motorcycle and jump it 100 feet—for the thrill of it. He is completely blind.

Vancouver writer/videographer Kai Nagata, 26, thought journalism’s primary task was to hold power to account. He’d gone to Concordia, studied journalism, and gotten a good job in a TV newsroom in late 2010. He believed that with sufficient public discussion, democracy flourishes and people’s rights are unabridged by the manipulations of corporate or civil authorities. Injustices can be prevented, and what happened to his family 70 years ago would never happen again. In this belief, he was—like his Japanese-Canadian grandparents in 1942—about to be disappointed.

As a reporter, Nagata realized his beliefs about journalism were not in line with the way it actually operated. Discussions about global warming, for example, required “balance” by dependable warming deniers—despite the absurdity of their protestations. Politicians could defend Canadian asbestos sales to India, or a B.C. bitumen pipeline, or their faith in perpetual economic growth without being called to task. He came to understand that to do TV news, he often had to shill for the very system he believed was destroying the planet.

“There are obstacles,” says Nagata, “that prevent the news being reported well. As the economy contracts and budgets shrink, newsrooms get hollowed out. Those who are left worry about paying their mortgages. News becomes contrived. And stories that push celebrity or consumption get aired—as news. Important questions aren’t asked in the face of this jingoism.”

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