Longtime CTV anchor Lisa LaFlamme caught off guard as Bell Media terminates contract

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Lisa LaFlamme presents an episode of CTV National News on May 14, 2020.TVC

Lisa LaFlamme was to let go as an anchor CTV National News after 35 years on the network in a decision that the veteran reporter said caught her off guard and shocked her colleagues and viewers.

CTV’s parent company Bell Media said Ms LaFlamme’s removal was a business decision intended to respond to changing viewing habits, although he did not elaborate.

Ms. LaFlamme, who has been the face of CTV’s national broadcast since 2011, posted a two-minute video to Twitter on Monday in which she said she was told on June 29 that the network was terminating her contract. She said she was told to remain quiet until the departure details were finalized.

“I’m still shocked and saddened,” she said. “At 58, I always thought I would have a lot more time to tell more stories that impact our daily lives. Instead, I leave CTV humbled by the people who trusted me to tell their story.

The longtime anchor and foreign correspondent has spent her career reporting on some of the biggest stories in Canada and around the world, including the war in Iraq and other conflicts, natural disasters like the Hurricane Katrina and global spectacles like the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Wedding. More recently, Ms. LaFlamme covered Russia’s war on Ukraine and the Pope’s historic apology for the role of the Catholic Church in Canada’s residential school system.

Bell Media announced her departure in a press release on Monday and said Omar Sachedina will replace Ms. LaFlamme on September 5. Mr. Sachedina is a national affairs correspondent for CTV News who joined the network in 2009.

“Recognizing the changing habits of viewers, CTV recently informed LaFlamme that it has made the business decision to move its acclaimed news program, CTV National News, and the role of its main news anchor in a different direction.” , the company said.

Bell Media did not make anyone available for an interview to explain the decision and instead referred The Globe and Mail to the company’s press releases.

Earlier this year, Ms. LaFlamme was named top national news anchor at the Canadian Screen Awards, having also won the previous year. In 2019, she was appointed to the Order of Canada and has many other honors attached to her name.

She took on the role of news anchor in 2011 when Lloyd Robertson retired at 77. He had spent more than four decades as a national news anchor and recalled a storied career before signing on for the last time on a newscast on September 1. year.

In her Twitter video, Ms. LaFlamme thanked her colleagues, viewers and loved ones for their “unwavering support” and said the video was likely her official CTV signature. “While it is overwhelming to leave CTV National News in a way that is not my choice, please know that reporting to you has truly been the greatest honor of my life,” she said.

Her exit from the network sparked outrage on social media from colleagues and industry supporters, with some questioning whether gender discrimination played a role in her withdrawal. Jeffrey Dvorkin, former director of the University of Toronto’s journalism program, said it was fair criticism and Bell Media will have to heed.

“I think they’re looking for a younger, different population and Omar Sachedina caters to that,” Dvorkin said. “But I think Bell Media may not have appreciated, as it should, the kind of loyalty people have to radio and television audiences. There is a real intimacy in broadcast journalism.

Shari Graydon, CEO and catalyst for Informed Opinions, an organization that champions women’s voices in the media, called Ms LaFlamme’s treatment “deeply disturbing”.

“When you pit Lloyd Robertson leaving at 77 against Lisa LaFlamme being basically two decades younger than that, the optics are really bad,” she said in an interview, noting that Mr. Robertson had had the opportunity to say goodbye on the network – as against on social networks.

Ms. Graydon also highlighted the importance of Ms. LaFlamme’s previous role in public perception, both for women and girls given the aspirations they can achieve, but also for boys and men, showing them that “women are as capable, as authoritative, as competent as their male colleagues.

Concerns about discrimination against on-air journalists are not new. Nearly 40 years ago, American TV presenter Christine Craft won a major case against her Kansas City station, alleging she demoted it for being “too old, unattractive and not deferential to men. In 2019, five female presenters sued the parent company of NY1, a well-known station in New York City, alleging gender and age discrimination. The anchors, aged 40 to 61 at the time, settled their lawsuit in 2020.

Robert Hurst, former president of CTV News, said in an interview Monday that he was surprised by the announcement about Ms. LaFlamme, but has no knowledge of what led to the decision. He declined to comment on the optics of her departure, but spoke fondly of her career, having hired her from CTV many years ago.

“She was just a fabulous journalist traveling the country and the world for us and when it was time for Lloyd Robertson to step down she was the obvious choice. I was obviously a huge fan when we put Lisa in the chair of anchor,” Mr. Hurst said. “Journalism was in his blood.”

Ian Hanomansing, who is one of the presenters on CBC News’ rival national show The National, said on Twitter that Ms LaFlamme’s departure had left him speechless. “Lisa is among the best at what she does. I know surprisingly arbitrary decisions can be made in this business, but Lisa, you deserve better than this. Much better,” he wrote on Twitter.

Global National Similarity anchor Dawna Friesen expressed shock. “Since we started working together years ago at CTV, I’ve seen you work hard and earn the respect of your colleagues, competitors and viewers. None of us last forever at these gigs, but it seems to me you deserve better than that.

Current and former politicians also announced on social media that Ms LaFlamme had been shown the door. Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley called her a “massive voice in Canadian media.” Former Liberal MP Catherine McKenna called the decision to terminate her contract “an appallingly shoddy way to treat an incredible journalist”.

Former NDP MP Peggy Nash said on Twitter that Ms. LaFlamme deserves respect and appreciation for her many years of hard work and success. “Instead, you were disrespected and fired,” Ms Nash wrote.

In a video posted via Twitter on Monday, CTV National News anchor Lisa LaFlamme said Bell Media informed her on June 29 of the “business decision” to terminate her contract. LaFlamme had worked for the network for 35 years.

The Globe and Mail

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