In this week’s issue… LaFlamme’s controversial ouster – Cuts continue at Audacy – Remembering two WBZ personalities – Morning shows shift in NYC – Derringer out at Q107
By SCOTT FYBUSH
(Programming note: Thanks for your patience as we took an unexpected summer break last week. We’re back with lots of news this week – and stay tuned for more on Tower Site Calendar 2023 any day now, too.)
*What exactly did executives at CANADA‘s Bell Media think was going to happen when they decided to cut ties with the anchor of the country’s most-watched nightly newscast and her producer?
After having been off the air for several weeks (not all that unusual in the summer), Lisa LaFlamme Tweeted a two-minute video from her cottage last Monday under the headline “I have some news…”, and indeed she did: she wouldn’t be returning to the anchor desk at CTV National News, a move she made clear was not her choice.
“I was blindsided, and I’m still shocked and saddened,” she said of the decision to end her 11-year run on the broadcast. Several Canadian news outlets reported that LaFlamme still had two years remaining on her contract, meaning Bell would still be paying her even as Omar Sachedina replaces her on the nightly newscast in September.
But in 2022, you don’t oust a popular female anchor – especially one who, at 58, should still have had many more years at the top of the game – without backlash. That’s just what happened, of course, and the aftermath is still reverberating at CTV and across Canadian media. The rumors began spreading almost immediately about clashes between LaFlamme and CTV News head Michael Melling over LaFlamme’s pandemic decision to stop coloring her hair, about conflicts over news coverage priorities and budget cuts, about a new direction at CTV that would de-emphasize the late-night newscast in favor of more digital content.
Whatever rationale CTV and Bell management might think they’d had for making the decision, LaFlamme’s story quickly became a bigger one as it became clear the network had badly bungled the announcement, both internally and externally. The last two veteran anchors to step down, LaFlamme’s predecessor Lloyd Robertson at CTV and CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, both had huge on-air sendoffs. CTV tried to explain that it had offered LaFlamme the opportunity to do the same, but her camp fired back with leaks suggesting that it came with the unacceptable condition that she would agree to say she was leaving of her own volition.
An internal town hall went just as poorly, as Bell senior VP Karine Moses fielded questions about whether LaFlamme’s age and gender fed into the decision to fire her.
“I’m a woman. I’ve been here for 25 years. Do you really think that I would fire a woman because she’s a woman?,” Moses fired back – but the damage was done, both to internal morale and to CTV’s public image. By week’s end, Bell had apologized for the way the decision was handled, promising an external investigation into newsroom morale and issues.
*Over at Toronto’s CILQ (Q107), another furor over the way women are treated at work came to a head a few days earlier, when Corus announced its decision to permanently suspend veteran morning host John Derringer. The station pulled Derringer off the air in May as one of his former co-hosts, Jennifer Valentyne, posted a video full of allegations of sexist mistreatment during her time at Corus. While she didn’t mention Derringer by name, other former colleagues came forward with a chorus of similar stories.
Corus says its internal investigation is still underway, but said it had “agreed to part ways” with Derringer after 22 years. Q107 says it’s still figuring out a new direction for morning drive.
2023 IS CLOSER THAN YOU THINK…
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