One of the top three reporters I've ever worked with gave me the enduring summary sentence for the new generation arriving in the newsroom.
"When we were kids, we were pretty vacant—and we didn't care," he said. "The difference with these kids is they're pretty vacant—and they don't know."
His great riff on the immortal Sex Pistols song came back to me as I read the blog posting from Kai Nagata regarding his abrupt resignation as CTV's Quebec City reporter last week.
Nagata's post reportedly had drawn 100,000 views by yesterday, generated endless chitter, and got him some minor shine time with CBC, HuffPost Canada and the Globe and Mail.
Now, the chap might be a world-class genius, and not just a TV pretty boy at all. The shameless self-congratulation that overwhelms the blog may be entirely accurate. And who among us can dispute Nagata's self-evaluation as an "excellent" reporter sent to Quebec City "because I'm good" (unlike his CTV colleagues who, he implies, were all hired purely for their lovely ear lobes)?
Yet as I read his pyric post, I was caught by something in his 3,000-word text beyond the eternal verity that all 24-year-olds with 10 months on the job think they are "excellent journalists" to whom the world should turn.
What caught me was the nagging certainty that CTV had a vacancy in its Quebec City bureau even while Nagata was on the job. Normally, this would be a concern to his former employer alone. With his blog, however, he has put the rest of us in the awkward position of wondering out loud about his generation's ignorance of its own vacuity.
How deep is the emptiness? Well, to put it in enough-said territory, Warren Kinsella reportedly called Nagata's blog post "wonderful".
Kinsella, remember, may be the only columnist to appear in the pages of the National Post with a weaker grasp than David Asper on a) thinking and b) writing. Asper, son of Post owner Izzy Asper, was renowned for his gift for making a ton of feathers read like a ton of bricks.
Again, none of this would matter if only an individual void were involved. What defines Nagata's words, though, also defines his kind: the cloud of unknowing around them.
This matters because of what he identifies as his primary reason for quitting a well-paying job requiring indoor work with no heavy lifting. He resigned, we are told, because he was frustrated at having to "filter" his opinions to comply with CTV's editorial code of conduct.
Sympathy evaporates after sampling those opinions in the raw. The immediate effect of the unexpurgated Nagata is stimulation of a muffled shriek that the fellow needs less filtering, more pillows and duct tape.
Had they been submitted to me as a piece of student journalism, my short advice would have been: don't quit your day job. Coming from someone already working in the field, my reaction is that they are not so much wrong or wrong-headed or embarrassing as they are evidence of a generational conviction that just to spew is to say something just and true.
In that sense, they are of a piece with the actions of the moppet who was recently fired from her job as a page in the Senate for holding up a silly sign protesting the re-election of the Harper government. To witness such wonders is to wonder how their perpetrators could know so little about how much they don't know and still feel entitled to be taken seriously.
Perhaps what's needed is a refresher course in Sex Pistols, if only to renew the virtue of humility:
"There's no point in asking you'll get no reply
Oh just remember and don't decide
I got no reason, it's all too much
You'll always find me out to lunch
We're out on lunch.
Oh we're so pretty
Oh so pretty
And we don't care . . . "