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Canadian Association of Journalists concerned about editorial interference by CTV National News management

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) says it is concerned about journalistic freedom at CTV National News, the Bell-owned evening newscast that has come under scrutiny after the anchor’s departure Chief Lisa LaFlamme.

A television report about Dove’s “Keep the Grey” campaign that was scheduled to air on Wednesday did not air because management ordered images or videos of LaFlamme removed, according to three CTV sources who spoke to CBC News provided they are not. appointed because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Dove said the campaign was launched in response to the broad national conversation about gray hair and ageism in the workplace. The company did not directly reference LaFlamme, but many linked the campaign to his ousting as anchor of CTV National News.

Media recently reported that her dismissal may have been related to her decision to stop dyeing her hair during the pandemic. It’s a claim that CTV’s parent company, Bell Media, strongly denies.

Sources said Richard Gray, regional manager for the Eastern Region at Bell Media, was behind the decision to remove images or video of LaFlamme from the article. Gray was recently named to replace Michael Melling as acting vice president of news. The company announced on Friday that Melling had taken a leave of absence.

“If it passes – and is allowed to pass – what happens next time?” CAJ President Brent Jolly said in an interview with CBC News.

“When is the question of editorial independence challenged? It’s not a legal question. It’s a question of shaping the direction and content of the story.”

Management’s comments on the story crossed a line, sources say

A CTV source said it was not unusual for management to comment on the stories, “but there were concerns that journalistic and editorial independence could be violated.”

Ultimately, the story did not air on television.

“The newsroom eventually pushed back on those restrictions,” Jolly said.

Another CTV source said employees discussed their editorial concerns at a staff meeting Thursday attended by editors, writers, producers and national reporters.

“It was very confusing. Until that time, Richard Gray had no contact with the national broadcast,” they said.

“As a group, we felt our credibility was threatened because we were being prevented from reporting on an issue…that deserves to be published. It was the biggest news story in Canada. And we couldn’t not report it.”

They went on to say, “We felt muzzled and scared.”

WATCH | LaFlamme discusses the end of his tenure at CTV News:

CTV National News anchor Lisa LaFlamme announces she has been fired

LaFlamme said she was “blindsided” when Bell Media terminated her contract after more than 30 years.

But when other companies, like Wendy’s and Sports Illustrated, showed their support for LaFlamme by unveiling similar marketing campaigns, the story was once again kicked off by CTV reporters.

This time it aired with images and clips of LaFlamme and it was retweeted by many of the company’s reporters.

A Bell Media spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News on Friday that all editorial decisions, including on stories related to LaFlamme’s departure, were made by CTV News editorial managers.

“Bell Media and CTV News are committed to upholding the principles of journalistic independence and integrity in all circumstances and at all times, without exception,” the spokesperson said.

Jolly said CTV reporters approached his organization to help with their case because they aren’t unionized and didn’t feel supported.

“People can’t express themselves in traditional ways,” he said.

CTV executive takes time off after fallout from LaFlamme departure

According to an internal Bell Media memo released on Friday, Melling had decided to take time off from her current role to spend time with her family.

The memo was signed by Karine Moses, senior vice-president of Bell Media. But in a separate statement released the same day, Bell President and CEO Mirko Bibic said Melling was on leave “pending the outcome of [a] workplace review.”

Michael Melling, left, took time off from his role as CTV News chief after LaFlamme’s sudden departure from the network’s newscast caused an outcry. (Michael Melling/Linkedin, George Pimentel/The Canadian Press)

Melling faced a flurry of criticism over LaFlamme’s abrupt dismissal from CTV, which raised allegations of sexism and ageism.

LaFlamme said she was “blindsided” when Bell Media terminated her contract with CTV National News after more than 30 years. The company said the move was a “business decision” that will move the senior news anchor role in “a different direction.”

However, Bell Media last week said LaFlamme’s dismissal would be subject to independent review.

CTV reporters express concerns in letter

In an introductory letter to Bibic, Bell Board of Directors and Bell Chairman Wade Oosterman dated August 22, human rights lawyer Paul Champ wrote that his firm had been approached by a group of CTV News reporters who had serious concerns about LaFlamme’s firing and “the toxic substance”. work culture that has developed at CTV over the past eight months.

“These well-respected reporters are concerned about disparaging comments and unfavorable treatment in the workplace, with intimidation and retaliation being a common response to anyone who questions the decision-making or processes of CTV’s new vice president. News. [Michael Melling].”

READ | Letter to BCE President from lawyer regarding CTV News concerns:

In a separate letter to the Bibic and Bell board, anonymous CTV reporters wrote that they felt it necessary to protect their identities because professional retaliation had become a significant risk in the news division over the past eight last months.

Melling’s appointment as head of CTV’s news division was announced in January.

In their letter, the staff wrote that they were deeply disturbed by Melling’s lack of experience in national and international news, and reports of “inappropriate and offensive” comments made by him regarding LaFlamme’s appearance.

The reporters said they believe CTV’s decision to part ways with LaFlamme was “based more on personal malice than business reasons.” They went on to say that her dismissal was “tainted with ageism, sexism and misogyny from a male boss.”

READ | Letter to BCE Chairman and Board of Directors from anonymous CTV News reporters:

But Bibic denies this.

“The narrative was that Lisa’s age, gender or gray hair played into the decision. I am convinced that is not the case and wanted to make sure you heard it from me” , he wrote in a post on LinkedIn.

“The days of viewers waiting until 11 p.m. to get their news are over. While some may resist change, it is necessary and we must face it.”

Bibic also said Melling was on leave pending the outcome of a workplace review.

Journalists have asked Bell executives and board members to respond to their letter by August 29.