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When CTV’s beloved anchor was suddenly ousted from her job, questions about ageism and sexism spread.

*Featured image contains photo by Anna Shvets

Lisa LaFlamme became the anchor of CTV National News — one of Canada’s most-watched newscasts — in 2011 and stayed in the role ever since. That is until recently, when she was unexpectedly removed from her position. When viewers began asking why, the possibility that ageism played a role surfaced.

Why CTV News Anchor Stopped Dyeing Her Hair on Air

smiling woman sitting in a chair in front of shelves full of books
Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

In 2020, LaFlamme decided to stop dying her hair and let it go grey. Because the pandemic made it impossible for her to visit her hair colorist, LaFlamme had been spraying her roots every morning before she went on air. Finally, she decided she would rather just wear it natural.

“I finally said, ‘Why bother? I’m going grey,’” LaFlamme explained during the network’s year-in-review special. “Honestly, if I had known the lockdown could be so liberating on that front, I would have done it a lot sooner.”

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However, her choice was not always well-received. One opponent to LaFlamme’s decision was the new head of CTV News, Michael Melling. Early on in his term, Melling asked who approved the idea to “let Lisa’s hair go grey.” The issue came up again on set, when he pointed out that her hair was looking purple in the studio lighting.

Melling was the one to tell LaFlamme that she was being removed from her role, even though she still had two years left on her contract. LaFlamme, who had worked at the network for 35 years, was understandably shocked.

Why CTV News Anchor Was Fired From Her Job

LaFlamme published a short video explaining her side of the story. She said that on June 29, she was told that Bell Media, CTV’s parent company, made a “business decision” to terminate her contract.

“I was blindsided and I’m still shocked and saddened by Bell Media’s decision,” she said. “At 58, I still thought I’d have a lot more time to tell more of the stories that impact our daily lives. Instead, I leave CTV humbled by the people who put their faith in me to tell their story.”

Melling and LaFlamme reportedly had tension on set. Two current staff members shared that they had witnessed strain between them both.

A lot of these arguments centered on spending and journalistic integrity. After the war in Ukraine broke out, the network planned to send a crew to the country to cover the Russian invasion. LaFlamme fought for extra precautionary measures — like booking hotel rooms in Krakow, Poland, in case the crew needed to leave Ukraine in an emergency — which Melling opposed because of cost concerns.

A similar situation arose concerning Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. Melling initially refused to send a crew to Britain to cover the celebration, saying it wasn’t worth the expense.

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“Michael said, ‘We’re not going. Cancel. It’s not worth it. Let’s cover it from Toronto,’” a staff member shared.

The staff member recalled LaFlamme fighting this decision.

“We have to cover the Queen! She’s Canada’s Queen too,” the staff member remembered LaFlamme saying. “The plan had already been set about the coverage and conversations already took place with our broadcast partners in the U.K.”

How a Woman Being Fired Opened a Conversation on Aging

elderly man sitting in front of a computer with "too old" on it
Photo by Ron Lach

Though clashes in the newsrooms had never been uncommon, the tone of the disputes were different with Melling. There was a lack of respect that hadn’t been around when Melling’s predecessor, Wendy Freeman, was still in charge.

Many are attributing LaFlamme’s firing not to the tension between Melling and LaFlamme in the newsroom, but to her hairstyle, calling into question ageism and sexism at CTV.

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The judgement surrounding older women and their appearance has been magnified by the removal of LaFlamme.

Aging is a natural process that befalls everyone. To age gracefully is a beautiful thing and shouldn’t be grounds for ridicule or expulsion. Judging someone for something they can’t control is a waste of energy, just as terminating someone’s contract because of their natural hair color is the wrong thing to do.

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