On June 29, CTV National News terminated its contract with esteemed Canadian news anchor Lisa LaFlamme. LaFlamme has worked for the network––owned by Bell Media––for 35 years and was voted Best National News Anchor in April 2022. When news of LaFlamme’s termination came to light, dedicated viewers, journalists, and countless social media users expressed outrage. Many have claimed that the decision to let LaFlamme go was an overt expression of discrimination on the basis of gender and age. While Bell Media executives have denied these accusations, this situation indicates how public opinion has justifiably turned to support victims of clear sexism and ageism.
In many professional fields, particularly the media industry, appearance stands in for competence and proficiency, making it difficult for older women to maintain long careers as young women are often considered more “appealing.” A news anchor is expected to maintain a particular image to please viewers and to uphold the values of the network. LaFlamme has spoken out in the past about the extensive time and effort she puts into dyeing her hair to disguise any greyness. In 2020, she publicly stated that she would no longer be covering up her natural hair as she could not visit a hair salon due to the COVID-19 pandemic. LaFlamme stated that she found the decision “liberating.” While feminists online have applauded her candour, it likely contributed to her termination from the company. Allegedly, CTV executives made derogatory comments in the CTV newsroom about her greying hair—highlighting concerns about ageism and sexism within the industry.
Companies like Bell Media have a moral duty to prioritize journalistic integrity and credibility over physical appearance. In firing a recognizable and widely respected female journalist with visible grey hair, Bell Media is discouraging women from entering and prospering in the field of broadcast journalism. The implications of LaFlamme’s termination represent the intersection of ageism and sexism, suggesting that women have an expiry date in the media industry. This sends a troubling message to prospective women journalists who are faced with vastly different career obstacles than their male counterparts.
When LaFlamme posted a video on Twitter on Aug. 15 informing her viewers of Bell Media’s decision not to renew her contract, she said that she was “blindsided” by the decision. Anyone who saw the video would have no choice but to believe her. Companies such as Wendy’s, Dove Soap, and Sports Illustrated have publicly criticized how Bell Media treated LaFlamme. Dove Soap, for example, launched a social media campaign called #KeeptheGrey, expressing their solidarity and outrage with the circumstances surrounding LaFlamme’s termination and hoping to draw attention to the ageist implications of her dismissal. The way Bell Media has handled this situation signifies a lack of loyalty and consideration within the company, which could break the trust their network has built with their viewers and tarnish their reputation. Bell Media has yet to clarify the reason for her termination, effectively refusing to take accountability for their alleged discrimination.
Lisa LaFlamme’s dismissal demonstrates how ageism disproportionately affects women and impedes their ability to succeed in the media industry. For women in media, it’s a double-edged sword—if you’re young, appearance can serve as a benefit, but you aren’t taken as seriously as male colleagues. And as you get older, men are seen as wiser whilst women become expendable. According to these biases, grey hair on a woman is a sign that she is becoming obsolete and out of fashion, while grey hair on a man makes him appear distinguished. Women are encouraged to fight their natural aging processes, placing a higher value on beauty than competence. This raises a dangerous question: How can viewers put their trust in media networks such as Bell when they clearly prioritize image over quality journalism?