Kai Nagata takes over CTV’s Quebec bureau

Kai Nagata reporting live from outside in the cold last January

More than three months after posting an opening for a Quebec City reporter to replace the retiring John Grant, CFCF reached out and stole an up-and-comer from its direct competitor, hiring CBC Montreal reporter Kai Nagata for the job.

The station didn’t get much demand for the job internally, with much of its staff consisting of veterans who aren’t eager to move to a city that’s more than a two-hour drive away and doesn’t have much of an English scene.

“I think our current staff of reporters are pretty happy with what they’re doing now, and simply chose to stay put,” CTV Montreal news director Jed Kahane told me. “Most of them have deep roots in Montreal, with families and other personal commitments here, so I wasn’t expecting any internal applicants.”

So instead, he reached out to Nagata and offered him the job, which Nagata formally accepted last Friday.

“I’ve been watching Kai since he started at CBC and was always very impressed with his work,” Kahane said in a totally not-press-release-y way. “He’s a serious journalist with a lot of insight and commitment. He’s also a great storyteller who is at ease in front of the camera. I think what matters most in this profession is curiosity, a critical eye and a strong desire to inform the public responsibly. Kai has all of that; the rest he’ll learn.

“I saw him cover the opening day of Marc Bellemare’s testimony the other day for CBC’s The National, and he did a great job. I’m really excited he’s joining our team, and like his predecessor John Grant who is retiring at the end of the month, I’m confident Kai will earn the respect of our viewers.”

Nagata, 23, has only been working at the CBC since the spring of 2008. He moved to Montreal from Vancouver a year earlier to take Concordia’s graduate journalism diploma program. I’ve known him since then – we play the occasional soccer or board game. (So feel free to compensate for any bias this post may have in his favour.)

“A chance to step up my game”

Asked about his move, Nagata said he was both excited about this new adventure and sad that “I’m leaving behind the only journalistic family I’ve ever known. These are people I respect professionally but I also shared a lot of laughs and frustrations and cold cafeteria meals with. It’s not an easy thing to walk away from.”

Still, Nagata said he has felt “a sense of restlessness” that this new opportunity can help alleviate. “They’re giving me the chance to cover the biggest stories in the province for the biggest anglophone audience in the province and to immerse myself in francophone culture in a beautiful city and find out what I’m made of.”

“CBC went out of their way from the very beginning to challenge me and to present me with opportunities to cover these interesting stories and to go places and talk to people and to file nationally for radio and TV, but when it came down to it I just felt like the job that CTV is offering me is a chance to step up my game as a journalist.”

Nagata said he’s particularly glad that he’ll have something few television reporters have the luxury of these days: a beat. “Politics is about people,” he said. “There’s a lot of beats that I admire, but politics has always attracted me.”

What about CBC?

The CBC was gracious about Nagata’s career advancement, while putting a positive spin on it.

“Kai is very talented and we’ll miss him around here, but we’re happy for him and wish him all the best,” said News Director Mary-Jo Barr. “I’m proud to know our journalists at CBC Montreal are second to none, and are sought after by other organizations.”

Barr can hardly fault Nagata’s move. She herself used to work at CTV, and plenty of people have jumped from one station to the other.

Nagata gave his two weeks’ notice and plans to keep working until next Friday. He’s currently passing on specialized videojournalist training he received (“videojournalist” being CBC-ese for “working without a cameraman to save us money”) to one of the station’s other up-and-coming young journalists (and a former classmate of mine), Catherine Cullen.

Mind you, this hasn’t stopped him from already becoming friends with CTV staff through Twitter.

Nagata will join the CTV family starting Sept. 27, and spend a few days training with Grant. He takes over the beat on Oct. 1.

11 thoughts on “Kai Nagata takes over CTV’s Quebec bureau

  1. Maria Gatti

    Well, I don’t know Kai at all, and certainly think he is a talented young journalist. Congratulations – I wish him luck. Remember that there is also a train between Mtl and Qc, and time on the train is not time wasted as you can read, write and think – and not have to worry about driving in a snowstorm. There is a new VIA rail – Communauto partnership to promote rail commutes with a carshare available if one should need a car in the opposite city. Kai will become far more fluent in French – do get an apartment in one of the walkable central neighbourhoods – and can easily return here if he wants to see English shows that don’t make it to QC.

    Reply
  2. AlexH

    Congrats to him, it shoudl be encouraging for all young journalism students and such to see younger people getting significant on air roles, and being solicited for network jobs.

    But I have to ask two sort of relevant questions here: How is his french? Reporting about politics in Quebec City means plenty of time working in french only, and trying to extract meaning from subtle statements in French. The other question would be time: Is someone from Vancouver who has spent only 2 years in Quebec the best possibly candidate to cover the significant and fast moving political beat?

    I don’t know the guy, I don’t want CBC local news… so I have no idea of the answers.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      His French isn’t perfect, but it isn’t non-existent either. He says he’s looking forward to having the opportunity to beef up his skills.

      As for being the best candidate, the field of those who are (a) willing to move to Quebec City, (b) are fluent in English and (c) have TV reporting experience isn’t very high.

      Honestly, I think lack of familiarity with Quebec political history and the byzantine political process is going to be more of an impediment than language skills. You can’t really get by as a reporter in Montreal without sufficient French skills either.

      Reply
    2. ibrahim imiru

      Having worked with Kai, I’ll say that his French is better than some of the Quebec-born English journalists working in Montreal.

      One of his bigger challenges will be ignoring the pack journalism practiced by some of the francophones in the press gallery (though Kai is an an independent-minded guy).

      Also, you’d all be shocked to hear about some of the bullying of anglo journalists that goes on from P.R. flaks in QC.
      It’s at its worst when the P.Q. is in power (which presumably they will be in a few years).
      A former colleague of mine was frozen out by all the flaks when he covered a Bernard Landry speech in a way that they didn’t like.

      I have several other examples, but in short, Kai will be fine. The only real question is how long he’ll last before the network snatches him up. He’s at that level already.

      Reply
      1. AlexH

        I don’t think that anyone would have a problem if he got snapped up by the network within a couple of years. Honestly, I think while it has been great for us to have people like Grant, Luft, and so many other long term experienced journalists working for CFCF, I think that is something that won’t happen again in the future. I think you will see the local news become more and more of a revolving door, with the best journalists moving up to network jobs, and the rest of the people getting cycled out the door after a while if they aren’t really making the grade. There are plenty of new journalism grads every year, and very little reason for CTV / Bell to be paying senior level wages.

        Reply
  3. Maria Gatti

    Is Kai already a bilingual? Someone who already speaks two languages fluently (whatever they are) will usually have an easier time picking up a third. Oh, he strikes me as a bright young man (how is that for a geezera comment???) and I think he’ll pick up at least some of the intricacies of “le Salon de la race” pretty quickly.

    Googling him, seems he’s a newlywed? Hope his wife’s career is portable too.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Googling him, seems he’s a newlywed? Hope his wife’s career is portable too.

      That’s news to me. I wouldn’t believe everything I read on Google.

      Reply
  4. Mike Gasher

    This is great news and a bold move by CTV to hire a young journalist, but one who has tons of potential, for such an important post. I knew Kai as a student in Concordia’s journalism program and I have every confidence that he’ll do a great job in Quebec City. Kudos to Kai and to Jed Kahane.

    Reply
  5. cheese

    Arrrright Kai! I am totally biased because I’m a non-journo friend of his but he’s done great stuff here in Montreal and I wish him all the best in QC. BTW I’m pretty sure the newlywed thing is inaccurate and his french is better than just passable.

    Reply
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