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The Canadian Journalists Association (CAJ) said it had concerns about journalistic freedom on CTV National News, the Bell network’s evening news broadcast that has been the focus of scrutiny following the departure of chief anchorwoman Lisa LaFlamme.

A TV story about Dove’s “Keep the Grey” campaign that was scheduled to air on Wednesday didn’t go ahead because management ordered the removal of LaFlamme’s images or videos, according to three CTV sources who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. public.

Dove said the campaign was launched in response to the widespread national conversation about graying and aging in the workplace. The company doesn’t directly reference LaFlamme, but many have linked the campaign to his firing as headline anchor on CTV National News.

There have been recent media reports that his dismissal may have been linked to his decision to stop dyeing his hair during the pandemic. This is a claim vehemently refuted by CTV’s parent company, Bell Media.

Sources say Richard Gray, eastern regional manager at Bell Media, was behind the decision to remove LaFlamme’s images or videos in the work. Gray was recently appointed to replace Michael Melling as vice president of news. The company announced on Friday that Melling had taken time off from work.

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

“At what point is the issue of editorial independence being questioned? This is not a legal issue. It’s a matter of establishing the focus and tenor of the story.”

Management feedback on stories crosses the line, sources say

A source at CTV said it was unusual for management to provide feedback on stories, “but there are concerns that journalistic and editorial independence is being violated.”

In the end, the story was not shown on television.

“The newsroom is finally pushing back on these restrictions,” Jolly said.

Another source at CTV said employees discussed their editorial issues at a team meeting attended by national editors, writers, producers and journalists on Thursday.

“It was very confusing. Until then, Richard Gray had absolutely nothing to do with the national show,” they said.

“We feel as a group that our credibility is threatened because we are prevented from reporting an issue … that is newsworthy. It was the biggest news in Canada. And we can’t report it.”

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

WATCH | LaFlamme discussed the end of his term on CTV News:

CTV National News anchor Lisa LaFlamme announces that she has been released

LaFlamme said he was ‘blind’ when Bell Media terminated his contract after more than 30 years.

But when more companies, such as Wendy’s and Sports Illustrated, showed their support for LaFlamme by launching similar marketing campaigns, the story was rekindled by journalists at CTV.

This time it aired with images and clips of LaFlamme and was retweeted by many journalists at the company.

A spokesperson for Bell Media said in a statement to CBC News on Friday that all editorial decisions, including on stories relating to LaFlamme’s departure, had been made by the editor-in-chief of CTV News.

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

Jolly said CTV reporters approached her organization to help advocate on their behalf because they were not unionized and they felt they were not supported.

“People can’t talk in a traditional way,” he said.

CTV executives take leave after fallout from LaFlamme . departure

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

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

Michael Melling, left, has taken time off from his role as head of CTV News after LaFlamme’s sudden departure from the network’s newscast caused a stir. (Michael Melling/Linkedin, George Pimentel/The Canadian Press)

Melling faced a wave of criticism over LaFlamme’s sudden sacking from CTV, which led to accusations of sexism and age.

LaFlamme said he was “blind” when Bell Media terminated his contract at CTV National News after more than 30 years. The company said the move was a “business decision” that would move the main news anchor role in a “different direction.”

However, last week, Bell Media said LaFlamme’s dismissal would undergo independent review.

CTV reporters express concerns by letter

In a cover letter to Bibic, Bell’s board of directors and Bell president Wade Oosterman dated August 22, human rights attorney Paul Champ wrote that his company had been approached by a group of CTV News journalists who had serious concerns about LaFlamme’s firing and the growing work culture at CTV over the past eight years. last month.”

“This respected journalist has concerns about degrading comments and ill-treatment in the workplace, with intimidation and retaliation being common responses to anyone questioning CTV News’ decision-making or the process of the new vice president. [Michael Melling].”

READ | Letter to the BCE president from lawyers about concerns at CTV News:

In a separate letter to Bibic and Bell’s board of directors, the unnamed CTV journalists wrote that they felt the need to protect their identities because professional retaliation had become a significant risk within the news division in the past eight 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 performance.

The journalists stated that they believed CTV’s decision to part with LaFlamme was “based more on personal hatred than on any business-related reasons.” They went on to say that his dismissal was “stained by age, sexism and misogyny at the hands of male bosses.”

READ | Letter to the BCE president and board of directors from an unnamed CTV News journalist:

But Bibic denied it.

“The narrative is that Lisa’s age, gender or gray hair played a part in the decision. I am satisfied that this is not the case and want to make sure you hear from me,” he wrote in a LinkedIn post.

“The days where viewers waited until 11pm to get their news are gone. While some may resist change, it is necessary and we have to face this.”

Bibic also stated that Melling was on leave pending the results of the workplace review.

The journalists requested that Bell’s executives and board members respond to their letter by August 29.

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