Lisa LaFlamme eviction robbed CTV News viewers of historic moment: Analysts

Omar Sachedina’s promotion to CTV National News should have been a victory for Canadian media representation, but observers say the controversy surrounding the departure of his predecessor Lisa LaFlamme overshadowed a momentous event.

It was “a stolen moment” when both a decorated woman and an accomplished man of color were robbed of important reference points in their careers, said Brent Jolly, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

“This should be something to be celebrated,” he said.

“And yet synchronizing the announcements is unfortunately not doing him as much service as it could.”

Bell Media issued a press release Monday stating that LaFlamme would be leaving the broadcaster after 35 years. Less than half an hour later, Sachedina was named as her replacement.

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Lisa LaFlamme removed as CTV National News anchor: ‘I was caught off guard’

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The ousted main anchor turned to social media, where she said in a video that she was first made aware of the decision on June 29, adding that she felt “blinded” by what executives described as a ” business decision”.

LaFlamme also missed a career milestone when she was taken off the air without an official autograph on the CTV broadcast she ran for over a decade.

The seriousness of Sachedina’s new position in the higher ranks of Canadian television was also diminished.

As CTV’s national affairs correspondent, the Vancouver-born journalist takes over the helm of Canada’s most-watched evening newscast after already starring there. He is of Indian descent with parents from Uganda. Those details were largely overlooked in the controversy surrounding LaFlamme’s sudden expulsion from the network.

Sachedina marched through appearances on channels owned by Bell Media, where the interviewers largely avoided the controversy surrounding his nomination, while he spoke optimistically about the future of the newscast.

Lisa LaFlamme appears in a Twitter video announcing her departure from CTV National News.

Twitter

Neither LaFlamme nor Sachedina responded to requests for comment. Bell Media did not respond to questions about the handling of the announcement.

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Nana aba Duncan, an associate professor and Carty Chair of Journalism, Diversity and Inclusion Studies at Carleton University, said the announcement was mishandled and put Sachedina in a position where he would face more criticism.

“Now there’s an added pressure that this person might be put there for a diversity reason, and that’s unfair to him,” she said.

LaFlamme also didn’t get the respect she deserves, Duncan said.

Usually, an outgoing anchor would have the chance to say goodbye to their viewers in a live sign-off, along with a retrospective on their work. Peter Mansbridge landed nearly a year before leaving his job at CBC’s “The National”, while Lloyd Robertson was rostered on his 40-plus years at CTV when he retired in 2011.

“Usually there is time, and that time is not taken here,” Duncan said. “To me it shows a lack of caring and honesty for both of them.”

The controversy over Sachedina’s new role is the latest piece in a game of “diversity chess” in Canadian broadcaster, said Pacinthe Mattar, a Toronto journalist.

The way it tends to unfold, she said, is that a person of color is hired to effectively cover up the departure of a high-profile personality from the company.

“I think it’s a pattern,” said Mattar, writing about the experiences of racialized journalists in her 2020 Walrus article “Objectivity Is A Privilege For White Journalists.”

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“(It’s) people who get looted, lose their jobs, or get fired, and then suddenly there’s a younger, racialized person in their place who takes the helm instead.”

She pointed to Tyrone Edwards, who was named co-host of CTV’s “eTalk” in 2020 when Ben Mulroney announced he was leaving to make way for “various voices”. Around the same time, Bell Media cut ties with Mulroney’s wife, stylist and host Jessica Mulroney, saying that behavior was inconsistent with his “commitment to diversity.”

A few years earlier, rapper Shad became the host of CBC’s radio show “Q” when Jian Ghomeshi was charged with sexual assault for which he was acquitted in 2016. Shad retired from the show a year and a half after taking on the role, something he later said was not his decision.

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Mattar believes these examples point to a cyclical problem in the Canadian media.

“There’s very little runway for highly visible, racialized people … to really grow into their roles,” she said.

She added that LaFlamme’s treatment only further speaks to the disturbing nature of the calls being made by the leadership.

“You’re watching one of the most respected, celebrated, and award-winning white female journalists _ and she’s being treated this way?” she said.

“I don’t think it’s a win for inclusion or diversity. It’s just window dressing.”

Leaders need to be aware that employees are becoming more aware of how they are treated — or mistreated — at work, Duncan added.

Employers need to recognize that a younger generation of journalists are entering the workforce that is more attuned to workplace mental health and less likely to accept “it’s just that” reasoning, she added.

“It’s not just in journalism, but everywhere,” she said.

“People who go to work are looking for their employers who care — not just to say they care, but to somehow really show it. And that goes against that.”

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However, Duncan said she remains hopeful that progress can be made in journalism.

“We have to change it systematically,” she added.

“And that means people at the top have to start thinking about how people are attracted and how people leave.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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