Buzzing after #KaiNagata Talk at SFU

Is TV News Journalism Salvageable?
Photo credit: SFU Woodward’s

Why do we continue to watch TV news when the end product is superficial and designed to either placate viewers or play to our fears?

Is TV journalism salvageable?

That was the starting point for Kai Nagata’s talk at SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts earlier this week.

Rebuttals were made by long-time broadcaster George Orr, CBC Radio’s Kathryn Gretsinger, Openmedia.ca‘s Steve Anderson, and SFU communications instructor Bob Hackett who is also the co-founder of Media Democracy Day. Veteran journalist and UBC instructor Deborah Campbell moderated the discussion.

Since Nagata left his position as CTV’s Quebec Bureau Chief this summer and published Why I Quit, the blog post has generated 500,000 hits and 1,450 comments.

So I was excited to hear from him in person. Nagata didn’t disappoint. He’s passionate about the institution, and hopeful for the future and the potential to empower citizens to become “volunteer journalists” (a la volunteer firefighters) using open-source, online training that doesn’t leave students in debt like traditional j-schools.

By his own admission, it’s a working idea that’s still baking and will likely change and evolve over the course of three years—a self-imposed time limit.

But, of course, it’s his commitment to his craft that I find most compelling and magnetic.

Plus, I admire his willingness to show a clip of his own work and critique its shortcomings in front of peers, mentors and strangers.

I also enjoyed hearing from George Orr who made it clear that the idea of a “golden age” of Canadian reporting is a myth, idealizing a past that never existed. He also succinctly revealed the pitfalls of modern reporting, but didn’t just glibly mouth tired excuses about deadlines and diminishing resources. For example, Orr outlined the desk’s overwhelming desire for conformity that punishes reporters who stray too far from what their competitors produce. And how Google has helped dumb down media, lulling reporters into doing a simple browser search instead of doing their own research over the phone or in person.

It was an excellent discussion and I walked away buzzing with all that’s possible when professional journalists and citizen media start collaborating together.

Julie Ovenell-Carter live tweeted the evening so I’ve pulled together a transcript below of her tweets if you’re interested in a post-by-post replay of the evening.