Acclaimed Canadian news anchor Lisa LaFlamme accuses bosses of firing her for letting her hair turn gray
When I try to explain to Americans who Lisa LaFlamme is, I usually say she’s Canada’s Katie Couric: a trusted TV presenter on screens across the country.
Such shorthand is necessary because you could be the Queen of Canada and still completely unknown to 99.99% of people in the United States.
Before last week the subject of LaFlamme popped up in my circle because she is also the companion of the former editor of this paper and my current friend, Michael Cooke, an eternal topic of conversation inasmuch as alone a certain type of hot-headed Briton may be.
LaFlamme posted a heartfelt video on Twitter last Monday, announcing that the anchor chair had been ripped from under her by CTV News’ parent company, Bell Media.
“I was blind,” she said. “And I’m still shocked and saddened by Bell Media’s decision.”
Viewers naturally suspected it was because she let her hair turn gray during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Couric, despite being a serious journalist, was often dismissed as simply perky. So LaFlamme, while stubbornly covering the biggest international stories, was also a woman at the top of a male-dominated industry, so not always treated seriously. Her decision to stop dyeing her hair made national headlines in Canada.
Headlines like “The silver lining to let our gray hair thrive during the pandemic”, – as the Brits they call gray “grey” up there – on an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail reaching a conclusion which obviously eluded CTV’s top brass: “Ms. LaFlamme could have easily sprayed her roots with a shot of Magic Root Cover Up…but instead decided to let her gray flag fly, and in doing so she somehow kind of gained even more of my trust and respect. So is gray the new honesty?
Not at CTV. Speaking of honesty, I tended not to write about LaFlamme at first — fighting for a buddy’s partner isn’t exactly Journalism 101. But the Washington Post thought it was important enough to weigh in. Friday :
“The abrupt dismissal of one of the country’s most prominent television journalists – she has run Canada’s most-watched newscast since 2011 and this year won the Canadian Screens award for top national news anchor – has sparked both a backlash and a national conversation about sexism and age discrimination in the media.
Why not make it an international conversation? I reached out to Chicago journalist probity star Carol Marin. She voluntarily retired in 2020, at age 72, but again, she skillfully kept her hair in a strawberry blonde bob. Marin is now co-director of the DePaul Center for Journalism Integrity & Excellence.
“This could be another case of not very smart management underestimating its audience,” she wrote to me. “Or a case of a TV consultant deciding what everyone’s ‘look’ should be. More recently, the mandatory “look” was for all female anchors to wear tight spandex dresses, whether they were flattering or not. I can’t tell you how many female viewers pulled me aside to say how stupid they thought it was. Again, this underestimated the audience.
Need I explain why this is bad, even for those who don’t watch TV in Canada? Maybe I do. There are many ways to try and understand our current global struggle, but the importance of judging people by what they do and say, not what they look like, is great shorthand for anything that doesn’t. do not go. Suggesting that immigrants of darker skin color are somehow unacceptable, or that trans women shouldn’t be allowed to read to children, are the type of bad news often delivered by supposedly Barbie-like newsreaders. , lest a wrinkle on HDTV. I don’t know, somehow break the spell.
For what it’s worth, CTV said in a statement that “recognizing the changing habits of viewers, CTV recently informed LaFlamme that it has made the business decision to move … in a different direction.”
I grew up in Cleveland, where WEWS-TV had Dorothy Fuldheim, their crown jewel, commentating three times a day until she was 90. Viewers didn’t care about her appearance; they liked her because she was so good. It’s strange to think that Canada, with its so-called progressive values, isn’t as progressive as Cleveland was in the mid-1980s.
LaFlamme’s replacement is, almost needless to say, 39 years old and a man.