Just a thought… When you speak up about any sense of unfairness or injustice, you’re told that you’re overreacting, you’re too angry, too silly – shut up already. It takes a tremendous amount of fortitude to be able to live in this world as a woman, let alone a woman who wants things to change. [Kathleen Hanna]
Hey – hope this last third of August is treating you well. If you were out of internet range or under a nice cool rock last week, you missed THE big story in Canada – media or otherwise – and possibly by now you’re quite possibly thinking: Okay, we’ve all heard enough about Lisa LaFlamme…time to move on. I get that. Just a few more things before we do, though, okay?
Because I also see a lot of conversation – and some really deep stuff – on my social media, particularly my Facebook page, about discrimination, ageism and, of course, sexism as it applies, not only in the media, but in everyday life.
Ageism has become my big thing and partly because I was so afraid of being seen as “old” in the media (terrified of even saying ‘grandmother’). I was pretty sure I’d never be allowed to work to 65+ like my partners Don Daynard or Mike Cooper or good ol’ Wally Crouter.
Of course I didn’t; I left at 54, because I chose to. Given our circumstances in 2016: my unhappiness overall, but especially with my co-host, the perfect house awaiting us in BC and the fact that I had a lot of healing to do after losing Lauren the previous year, it was time for me to go. CHFI was very kind in releasing me from my contract. So yes, there are exceptions to the example I’m about to lay out for you. I was lucky.
Lisa LaFlamme was not afforded the luxury of that decision. She quite likely had another decade or two ahead of her, had she chosen to take them. And I have no doubt that if she chooses to work again, she’ll be welcomed with open arms and hopefully a salary that befits her expertise and reputation.
Bell Media (first and foremost a phone company that answers, not to viewers or listeners, but shareholders) says she got the chance to say good-bye on air and didn’t take it. If that’s true, good for her for saying no! Because you know what happens before they take you out and shoot you, right? After a lovely video send-off, you go on the air and say that you have decided to go, that you are so grateful, that you will miss the viewers and on and on…sometimes they even say they’ll be back occasionally with “projects” that never materialize. Huh.
Whether you’ve known it or not, you’ve seen it dozens of times over the past few years with hosts who were shown the door. They’re told, “You’ll get your good-bye, but don’t go off-script or no severance package. Oh, and no talking about your work situation in a ‘negative fashion’ once you’re gone, either. Or it’s all off the table.”
Oh and, yes, that happens in radio, too.
So, two things I need you to take with you and they’re big. First, stop thinking your opinion matters. Your loyalty does not matter. Yes, it did in my case in 2003-05, but I was lucky and it was rare. You can sign the petitions. Pledge to boycott. Show your anger.
But in 2022, very little matters but the eyeballs on the digital content. TV and, to some extent, radio are killing themselves – destroying loyalty – and wondering why numbers are dwindling. Local content is disappearing, just as the local newspapers are being swallowed up and deleted. That real, heartfelt connection with the audience that Lisa only built on during Covid and letting her hair go grey as so many people were? It does not matter.
Twerps, and I use that word being just as kind as I can, come in from their accounting, consulting or business backgrounds and simply do not understand what makes that connection. So they cut it, and then they feign surprise when people are upset. If you are over 35, 45, 55, most media doesn’t want you. Never mind that we are the generation with the money, the ones who are spending, the ones with houses with no mortgages and doing discretionary spending. Nope, don’t mind us. We stopped mattering when the ratings were focussed on 25-54, and especially the younger end of that group.
Second, please stop calling for other women, like hosts of The Social or veteran fill-in anchor Sandie Rinaldo, to stand up for Lisa. These women have no voice, no say, no power. That’s the way it’s been set up. They’re constantly told, as was ousted CTV Toronto anchor Christine Bentley again and again when work and hours were loaded on with no extra pay, “There are plenty of women who’d love to take your place.”
Eventually they will. So let the ones who do have jobs play out their careers with what little autonomy they’re allowed. Don’t blame them for not raising their heads from the foxholes. You don’t have to watch them, but please don’t call for them to sacrifice themselves for the cause, either. They don’t deserve your disappointment; there are plenty of suitable targets here to go around.
Television is and always was a brutal, petty, sexist, ageist medium. There’s usually just a prettier curtain in front of the manure pile to keep you from seeing and smelling it.