Opinion | Lisa LaFlamme’s bio may be scrubbed from their site but no way Bell Media and CTV News can walk back this disaster


As if rag-dolling Lisa LaFlamme out of a job wasn’t bad enough, now the corporate suits are trying to dirtball her.

It’s hard, of course, to plant muck about a sterling professional who’s rarely put a foot wrong across 35 years with CTV. But there have been some takers in media who bit the bait, albeit they also had to bend over backwards to make a hanging offence out of a journalistic breach.

Thus the resurrection of a defamation suit brought by Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown against CTV news over the network’s reporting of sexual misconduct allegations against him, a creaky story — there was a significant error — that (temporarily) derailed his political career in 2018, and which involved LaFlamme.

Brown’s lawsuit was resolved in March.

As a retroactive casus belli — to make war on LaFlamme by axing her three months later — it’s a frail underpinning. One wayward story is small beer. Even smaller beer is the reported $350,000 salary that LaFlamme was pulling down. Frankly, I found that figure shockingly low for a national anchor and senior editor. If she were at a U.S. network, you could add another zero to it.

The tall foreheads at CTV — lowbrows, actually, I’d say — have been spinning, reverse-spinning and now find themselves behind the eight ball for a clumsily handled and utterly indefensible termination, an industry story that has now been picked up by the Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Guardian in the U.K., in Italy and Germany. The brass looks foolish worldwide, ditching their flagship anchor — crucially attached to the network’s solid ratings for news programming — whilst blathering about business decisions and going in a different direction and adjusting to a digital-oriented news landscape.

What? Will the anchor job ultimately be filled by an A.I. avatar, a blow-up doll, a rolling crawl? Doesn’t augur well for Omar Sachedina, the network’s national affairs correspondent who is supposed to assume the big chair on Labour Day. I’ve heard only good things about Sachedina (out of the country at the moment) and he would have made a terrific successor to LaFlamme — just not now, just not this way, and he knows it.

Meanwhile CTV has scrubbed LaFlamme’s bio and byline — including mention of those Canadian Screen Awards — from its website. They’re not covering one of the hugest news stories in the country as a news story. The Social, a network talk program aimed at women, isn’t permitted to discuss it, I’m told. And Bell radio stations have been banned from touching the subject. As well, her company phone, which contained all her source contact numbers, has been disabled.

Alongside these repugnant developments, not satisfied merely orchestrating a cancel culture around LaFlamme — who cannot now speak for herself — the scheming buggers appear to have been oh-so-busy badmouthing the woman who brought the network so much glory and a heartfelt connection with viewers, as evidenced by a furious public backlash after LaFlamme broke the “blindsiding” news Monday on a Twitter post, and the subsequent tsunami of heated complaints over her undeserved chucking.

Most duplicitous was promoting the fiction — repeated at a raucous town hall meeting in the CTV newsroom on Thursday — that LaFlamme had been offered the opportunity to say goodbye on air. There is a filament of truth here, according to senior sources. LaFlamme indeed had been extended that farewell podium — but only if she plumped the lie that it had been a mutual decision. It most emphatically was not and LaFlamme refused to play the shill.

A memo to staff that preceded the newsroom synod from Karine Moses, senior vice-president of content development and news, said: “As Lisa mentioned in her statement, she was informed of our decision on June 29. After June 29, Lisa was allowed to and did continue to work, covering the papal visit and anchoring the National News during the week of July 25.

“She opted to not say goodbye to the public during a CTV National newscast. While I wish things had been different, I also respect her decision.”

Such bollocks.

Moses was also caught with her spin askew when she replied to a question from LaFlamme’s long-time executive producer Rosa Hwang — who, by the way, had been ordered to stay out of the newsroom last week — seeking clarification on whether LaFlamme had been pushed out because of age or gender.

Moses replied: “No. Seriously, I’m a woman … I’ve been here 25 years. And do you really think I would fire a woman because she’s a woman?”

Hwang: “So she was fired then?”

Moses: “That’s not what I’m saying but you know what I mean.” After which a moderator cut off Hwang’s line of questioning, as the Star has already reported, and shortly thereafter the meeting was brought to an abrupt unhappy halt.

Actually, Moses, I don’t know what you mean. Nobody does. Was it in fact LaFlamme’s age — 58 — or the hair she’d allowed to go its natural silver during the pandemic, and which drew a gasping hissy from executives further up the food chain at Bell Media, as first reported by the Globe and Mail? Like, who approved this?

Further sliming has been flung by unnamed employees — and bitter ex-employees — claiming that LaFlamme and Hwang had contributed to a toxic workplace, throwing their weight around on which stories should be covered and how. That is a senior editor’s job. LaFlamme determined how stories were played, bringing a keen news sense to the assignment, to say nothing of three and a half decades of experience.

Newsrooms can be volatile, I know this. Voices are raised, arguments mounted, egos bruised. But delicate flowers don’t belong in this environment. The crux of this whinge, in so far as it has any ballast, I dare say has more to do with a woman wielding power that’s been earned.

Added to the stinky pile on Saturday was Danielle Graham, former eTalk host, speaking out for the first time about her dismissal by Bell Media in March, after she’d complained about “blatant gender discrimination.” Posting on Twitter, Graham relates that a meeting with HR was scheduled for March 11 and that an investigation would be commenced. But on March 10, “I was suddenly told by management ‘your services are no longer required.’

“I was told it was ‘a business decision.’

“I was not allowed to say goodbye on-air or to contribute to the messaging surrounding my departure, despite several requests from my representative to do so.”

It appears to be the CTV modus operandi.

The Star attempted to contact CTV representatives on Saturday but received no response, as of deadline.

There are several heads that should be stuck on a pike, starting with Michael Melling, the company’s head of news and architect of LaFlamme’s sacking, according to multiple sources. Because there’s no way for CTV News and Bell Media corporate lizards to walk back this disaster. Except maybe to restore LaFlamme to the big chair. Fall down on their knees and beg forgiveness.

But they won’t. The thinking is they can ride out this storm, batten down the no-comment hatches and navigate the monster swells.

Don’t seem to understand they’ve already crashed against the rocks.