A Bell Media executive refused to give specific reasons for the ouster of CTV National News top anchor Lisa LaFlamme, but told a staff meeting on Thursday that it had been a mistake to announce the newscast’s new anchor the same day Ms. LaFlamme informed the public of her unexpected removal.
The executive, Karine Moses, who is the senior vice-president of content development and news for Bell Media, told employees demanding answers about the long-time anchor’s abrupt dismissal that the change was needed, but did not provide details.
The meeting, which was for all CTV News staff members, was held three days after Ms. LaFlamme announced in a video posted to Twitter that Bell Media, CTV’s parent company, had made a “business decision” to terminate her contract.
The announcement led to a wave of angry reaction. CTV employees and members of the public have raised concerns about whether sexism and ageism could have played roles in Bell’s decision, in part because Ms. LaFlamme’s predecessor, Lloyd Robertson, stayed in the anchor chair until he was 77. (Ms. LaFlamme is 58.) The Globe reported on Thursday that Michael Melling, who became head of CTV News earlier this year, had questioned Ms. LaFlamme’s on-camera appearance, asking who had approved a decision to “let Lisa’s hair go grey.”
In her Twitter video, which has now been viewed 4.3 million times, Ms. LaFlamme said she was told on June 29 of the decision to remove her, but was asked to stay quiet until the details of her departure were finalized. “I was blindsided and I’m still shocked and saddened by Bell Media’s decision,” she said.
Within an hour of Ms. LaFlamme posting her video, CTV News announced that Omar Sachedina, who is currently a national affairs correspondent for the network, had been appointed as her replacement. Social media users, incensed by what they saw as unfair treatment of Ms. LaFlamme, soon began directing their anger toward him.
The Globe obtained a recording of the staff meeting, which Ms. Moses chaired with Mr. Melling. During the discussion, employees pressed for an explanation for Ms. LaFlamme’s removal and asked how the network would restore the public’s trust.
In a pointed exchange, Rosa Hwang, the executive producer of CTV National News, asked about the company’s vision for the show, and why its leadership thought a change in anchor was necessary.
“Sometimes you look at it holistically – there’s a couple of things you want to change, and unfortunately, that was one of the things that we felt that we need to move on,” Ms. Moses said.
“Can you pinpoint, journalistically, what you thought we would change?” Ms. Hwang asked.
“It’s not necessarily pinpointing on a specific thing. Like I said, when we’re making a business decision, we’re making it holistically – we look at different things, we look at the vision of where we want to go,” Ms. Moses replied.
Ms. Hwang asked whether anyone at the network had had a discussion about the company’s vision with Ms. LaFlamme.
“It’s a very, I would say, personal question. I don’t think the intent of this meeting is to discuss the discussion that happened with somebody else,” Ms. Moses said.
“So it had nothing to do with her age?” Ms. Hwang asked.
“Not at all, seriously. I’m a woman. 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?” Ms. Moses said.
In another exchange, Tom Walters, CTV News’s Los Angeles bureau chief, asked why the company had considered it a good idea to announce Mr. Sachedina’s appointment on the same day the public learned about Ms. LaFlamme’s removal.
Ms. Moses acknowledged that the timing was a mistake, but said she couldn’t share the analysis that led to the decision. “There is multiple reasons why the decision was made to announce it at the same time. In retrospect, I think we shouldn’t have done it this way,” she said.
During the meeting, Mr. Melling told the gathered employees that he would not be speaking publicly, or in the media.
“There are a lot of things that have been said that have been coming from anonymous sources which are simply not true. And other things that have been said without context or have been manipulated,” he said.
Mr. Melling said he wanted to focus on plans to hold small team meetings to talk about CTV’s roadmap for the future. And he said he would share information about audience trends, industry trends and the network’s finances. Like Ms. Moses, he did not offer a specific explanation for the network’s change in anchor. But he did say a growing number of Canadians are consuming news on digital platforms.
“We all understand the future is multi-platform,” he said.
During the meeting, CTV News staff members also pressed Mr. Melling and Ms. Moses on questions of trust. They noted that news of Ms. LaFlamme’s removal had created so much negative reaction that some viewers have said they will no longer watch the show.
“I think we have built that trust over 60 years. And there is currency there,” Mr. Melling said.
In an e-mail memo titled “Setting the record straight,” which was sent to all of CTV’s staff members on Thursday, Ms. Moses said recent media coverage has been “filled with false narratives,” and emphasized that her experiences with Bell Media as a female leader have always been positive.
Mr. Melling and Ms. Moses did not respond to requests for comment, and Ms. Hwang and Mr. Walters declined to comment.
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