More criticism surfaced Tuesday over what some current and former CTV News employees describe as a “culture of fear” within the organization, a day after it emerged the network had terminated the contract of Lisa LaFlamme, a of Canada’s best-known journalists.
Meanwhile, several other prominent broadcasters from Canada were emerging to express their support for their colleague.
Several female CTV News employees who spoke to the Star on Tuesday said the end of LaFlamme’s more than three decades at the company marked the loss of another female role model within the organization.
“In the last eight months, we’ve lost the two highest-ranking women at CTV News. Wendy Freeman and Lisa are gone,” said a long-time employee.
Like other employees who spoke to Star, they asked to remain anonymous due to concerns about their work and possible career repercussions.
Freeman had stepped down as director of CTV News in December after more than 25 years with the network. He has led the news division since 2010, overseeing news, information and current events programming, including CTV News, BNN Bloomberg and CP24.
Michael Melling, who worked his way to the top of the company after joining as an editorial assistant in 2003, was named vice president in January.
Several CTV employees who have spoken to the Star have laid the blame for what they describe as the current difficult climate at the feet of Melling, the news chief, while one said the problems in the organization predate him, but have “amplified”. during his tenure.
“With the arrival of Michael Melling, Wendy Freeman, who was breaking barriers, was gone. Wendy was the first female executive producer of CTV National News and the longest-serving news chief,” the longtime employee said.
Bell Media and Melling have not responded to Star’s requests for comment this week.
LaFlamme, who had been a lead anchor and chief editor for CTV National News, took to social media Monday to announce that her contract had been terminated.
“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,” the 58-year-old said in a video statement.
A Toronto employee described the mood among employees in the newsroom on Tuesday as “tense.”
“No one talks much,” the producer said. “There are still a lot of whispers, speculations.
“There has not yet been any kind of team meeting or speech from Michael Melling or leadership,” they added. “My colleagues are saddened and scared by what follows and fear retaliation for speaking out.”
LaFlamme had been anchoring the network’s National News since 2011, part of a 35-year career with CTV during which he covered the war in Afghanistan, the federal election, natural disasters, the global pandemic and, most recently, the papal visit. to Canada. She has been appointed during her career to the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada.
A producer corroborated the account of a longtime employee who told the Star on Monday that LaFlamme had “talked about where he’s seen a lack of coverage and where to put more resources … on (the war in) Ukraine, for example.” “.
CTV managers were told to inform the staff that LaFlamme’s departure was a business decision and that the show was “going in a different direction”.
Starting next month, Omar Sachedina will take on the role of CTV National News Senior News Anchor and Senior Editor.
Rosa Hwang, executive news producer for LaFlamme, has not been in the newsroom this week and has not been in contact with her colleagues, multiple sources confirmed.
“There are a lot of young women in the newsroom whose mentors have left, and they’re heartbroken and wondering what that means for their future in the business, because the top women in the newsroom aren’t there,” one producer said. to the Star.
“For us women in the newsroom, we knew we could always ask Lisa and Rosa for advice on difficult stories and how to approach these stories. They had our backs, along with Wendy Freeman.”
Randy Kitt of Unifor, the union that represents editorial staff at CFTO-DT (also known as CTV Toronto or Channel 9) and technical staff at the national newsroom, said they’ve heard the problems have been around for a long time. .
“We have heard year after year that there is a culture of fear there, where they treat their employees badly. … We had several organizing drives there where people were telling us they were scared, there was a lot of staff turnover,” Kitt said.
A former employee, who left last year, described what he felt was a toxic culture on CTV News.
He said people are “constantly yelled at” because there is a disconnect between management and editorial staff.
“I can’t tell you how many times I was scolded and spent hours with my therapist, who was like, ‘This is not normal,'” the former employee said.
He said annual concerns about who might be laid off surfaced.
“I can tell you that some of the most important and respected anchors or reporters in this country (are scared) because they say to themselves, ‘I make too much money, I could be in the lurch this round.'”
The source said he personally didn’t have a bad experience with Melling, describing him as “nice” during a conversation about moving to one of the network’s other stations.
“I was open to having that conversation,” he said.
Meanwhile, several Canadian broadcast journalism heavyweights said Tuesday they were stumped as to why LaFlamme, who won best national newscaster for the second year in a row at the 2022 Canadian Screen Awards in April, would be fired.
“Removing one of the public’s most visible advocates for responsible journalism, a woman who shattered the glass ceiling and held the ratings lead for a decade, is a strange way to protect a rare news brand and ensure trustworthy journalism endures,” he wrote. Kevin Newman in an online postHe was the lead anchor on Global National from 2001 to 2010 and was also a fill-in anchor for CTV National News with LaFlamme.
Ian Hanomansing, co-host of CBC’s The National, told the Star he was “shocked” by CTV’s decision.
“I was sitting in my house watching the video and I was actually wondering if it was a parody,” he said.
Hanomansing said he wasn’t sure he accepted CTV’s explanation for why LaFlamme was fired.
“What’s the real reason to part with her, when she’s as good as she is, when she’s at the top of her game, when she clearly wants to do this and does it so well, and the news outlet does it so well both in terms of viewership and also in terms of the quality of the news. If you put all those things together, why would you do it?”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION