Journalist challenges TV’s ‘race to the bottom’

Good job, well paid, and all the trappings of success - so why did Kai quit CTV?

At a time when the media is under scrutiny because of the Murdoch-empire phone-hacking scandal in the UK, we just read an interesting take on television news in Canada.

It’s written by Kai Nagata, who just quit as CTV’s Quebec City bureau chief.

He said he had a great job, and was making good money. So why resign? Because, in his words, he got tired of ‘the growing gap between the reporter I played on TV and the person I really am.’

Here’s part of what he wrote:

TV news is a curious medium. You don’t always know whose interests are being served – or ignored. Although bounded by certain federal regulations, most of what you see in a newscast is actually defined by an internal code – an editorial tradition handed down from one generation to the next – but the key is, it’s self-enforced.

Various industry associations hear complaints and can issue recommendations, or reward exemplary work with prizes. There are also watchdogs with varying degrees of clout. But these entities have no enforcement capacity.

Underneath this lies the fact that information is a commodity, and private TV networks are supposed to make money. All stations, publicly funded or not, want to maintain or expand their viewership. This is what I’ll call the elephant in the room.

Consider Fox News. What the Murdoch model demonstrated was that facts and truth could be replaced by ideology, with viewership and revenue going up. Simply put, you can tell less truth and make more money.

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