Bell, how many times will you go around the mountain?
Mount Sorak, South Korea
When I was a missionary in South Korea, to travel on a bus from where I taught in the eastern seaboard city of Kangnung to Seoul, took several turns around Mount Sorak. This is a mountain in South Korea. When I gave a sermon at the local church in Kangnung, I asked this question: How many times does it take for us to stop going around the mountain, and understand God’s message to us? In our Father’s love for us, He doesn’t want us to suffer. He would prefer it if we understood the lesson the first time. Through our stubborn refusal to accept what He is trying to teach us, He says, “We can do this again, but aren’t you getting tired of going around the mountain?”
In the recent ending of Lisa LaFlamme’s contract, I am left with this same question God asks us. Bell, how many times do journalists need to write about the importance of journalistic freedom before you begin to try mending the damage Michael Melling as Vice-President of CTV News and other management have caused, before you get God’s message to you? Resolve the problem. Stop going around the mountain of denial. Admit you screwed up.
The letter below from concerned CTV journalists lays out the issues quite well.
“August 22, 2022
Dear Mirko and Members of the Board of Directors,
We are a group of concerned CTV News journalists reaching out to you through an intermediary. Professional retaliation has become a significant risk in the news division in the last eight months, so it is necessary for us to shield our identities. It is hoped that once you’ve read the contents of this letter, you will take immediate action.
We believe the dismissal of Lisa LaFlamme as Chief News Anchor and Senior Editor of CTV National News, Canada’s most-watched national newscast, was wholly unfair and unjust. We also believe it was a decision based more on personal malice than any business-related reasons, as cited in the Bell Media announcement. We worry her age may also have been a prejudicial factor.
We have collectively spent many years reporting on events in Canada and abroad, with the goal of keeping Canadians informed through our nation’s pre- eminent news broadcast. It is an accomplishment we are all proud of. Lisa’s dedication and leadership in her 35-year career with CTV News, including her commitment to mentoring young women, has inspired us all. Her integrity and reputation as one of Canada’s most accomplished and recognized journalists are unassailable. Her dismissal appears to be an egregious act of revenge, tainted by ageism, sexism and misogyny at the hands of a male boss.
There has been widespread reporting of inappropriate and offensive comments made by Michael Melling, Vice-President of CTV News about Lisa’s appearance. Those comments appear to validate our concerns of a discriminatory and disparaging attitude towards women under his direction. Notably, those comments have not been publicly denied by Mr. Melling.
Moreover, such behaviour appears to violate Bell’s own Code of Business Conduct which specifically states that “all leaders are expected to champion a respectful, inclusive and supportive workplace” and “foster a work environment based on mutual trust and respect.” Further, the code declares that Bell “condemns any form of harassment” based on numerous factors, including race, religion, sex and gender.
As a result, we strongly urge you to immediately suspend Mr. Melling pending Bell Media’s announced “independent” third-party review of the CTV News workplace. To not remove him draws into question the very sincerity of your action. As the statement noted, Bell is “committed to a safe, inclusive and respectful work environment for all our employees, devoid of any toxic behaviour.” We trust this review will be conducted off-site so that employees will feel free to express their concerns without retribution.
In addition, we are deeply troubled by Mr. Melling’s lack of experience in national and international news and believe he is woefully ill-suited to lead a team of journalists who do, in fact, have the qualifications and knowledge he lacks. In the eight months Mr. Melling has been head of news, morale has suffered enormously and now with the upheaval of Lisa’s dismissal, the reputation and well-earned credibility of CTV News is also at serious risk.
To conclude: we have no confidence in Mr. Melling’s ability to lead the news division. We believe that only a change in news management can begin to repair the tremendous harm that’s been caused. We suggest you examine the oversight role of other senior managers, particularly Senior Vice-President Karine Moses, in this ill-conceived and poorly executed decision.
One need only listen to the depth of public anger directed at Bell Media to understand why our serious concerns need to be addressed without delay. And there is now troubling evidence that people are refusing interview requests with CTV News as a result of Lisa’s treatment.
We quote from a recent e-mail exchange with one high-profile Canadian woman: “I’m afraid I must decline your kind request. Given Michael Melling’s recent treatment of Lisa LaFlamme, I am doubtful that Mr. Melling would be happy to have me – another uppity woman with more than a few grey hairs – on a CTV national broadcast. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you and wish you all the best.”
We draw your attention to an article in the Globe and Mail outlining in detail the comments made by Mr. Melling about Lisa’s appearance, specifically her decision to stop colouring her hair. As you are certainly aware, it has provoked widespread outrage across the country, particularly among women.
And further, we note a report on the website Canadaland which outlined Mr. Melling’s direct interference in news coverage of Lisa’s dismissal. Again, the Bell Code of Conduct lays out clear guidelines concerning journalistic independence: “No Bell employee will take any action that will impact the standards of fairness, accuracy, balance and independence that must be applied to any such news story.”
Members of the CTV News family” 1
Bell, you now have two strikes against you. Strike one is when you terminated the contract of Lisa LaFlamme. Strike two was when you violated the right to journalistic freedom in initially censoring a story about Dove going grey, which featured images of Lisa LaFlamme. It was only after Wendy’s had an image of their logo going grey, that you agreed to the story being aired.
If you don’t begin to fix the issues, Canadians will continue to vote with their money by cutting the cord with all their Bell subscriptions. That would be strike three and you’re out.
Bibic recently put out another statement saying that the independent external review is examining the issues raised. Let us hope that it will be more than a whitewash.
Walter Cronkite understood the importance of journalistic freedom. He said, “Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy; it is democracy.” We must not let it like that bus to Seoul, start going down a slippery slope. If we don’t stand up and let our voice be counted, we will lose the freedom to say what is wrong in our society.
Canadians, please keep coming forward and telling Bell what you think about Lisa LaFlamme’s contract being ended. Let Mirko Bibic, President of Bell Canada Eneterprises Inc., know how you feel about the way they’ve been managing this escalating situation. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you prefer calling them their General Inquiries phone number is: 1-888-932-6666.
If you want to mail them a letter, here is the address for their Corporate office.
1 Carrefour Alexander-Graham-Bell
Building A, 4th Floor
The bus ride to Seoul got rough at times. The driver would sometimes go to the edge of the highway. I would see some of the wheel on the driver’s side go off the road. There were no guard rails. It didn’t bother the bus driver, but I was terrified it would careen off the highway, and plunge down the mountain. It never did. Koreans traveling with me remained calm. They trusted that the driver would get them safely to their destination.
Often, God seems distant. We don’t understand Him. We think the echoes of our heart cries fail to reach Him. He is there if you listen. Our Father is right there in all the pain Lisa LaFlamme, her colleagues at CTV, and in the sadness and outrage of millions of Canadians who miss her on CTV.
I believe the decision to terminate Lisa LaFlamme’s contract shows a breach of trust. It was a violation of the public’s and Lisa’s belief that Bell would act responsibly.
Leaders are held to a high standard of conduct for a reason. We look to them for support. Where was Michael Melling in all Lisa and CTV journalists have gone through? Where was Karine Moses, Senior Vice-President for CTV News Content and Development? In one statement she says a few things about the timing of Lisa La Flamme’s termination could have been done better. In another she says the events of it were well-sequenced.
What are we to believe?
Where was support of one woman for another? In that townhall meeting between Bell executives and CTV journalists Karine Moses said, “I’m a woman. I’m a woman. I’ve been here for 25 years. Do you really think that I would fire a woman because she’s a woman?”2 I will leave you to answer that question.
Listen to the cry of David’s heart. “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17, NIV). This shepherd boy fleeing for his life from King Saul’s army transitions from fear to radiance. David was confident God would recue him. He believed with all of his heart that God was hearing and feeling everything David was.
Perhaps, you feel God is unsympathetic to your situation. Think about what Lisa LaFlamme is going through. Imagine what it would be like for you to be terminated from the position as Chief News Anchor you held for 11 years. At age 58 after a 35-year career with CTV, she was tossed away like yesterday’s newspaper. How would you feel?
God hears every time you cry out to Him. He is very much in the midst of this whole unfair and unjust situation Lisa LaFlamme and her colleagues are going through.
There is a beauty to Mount Sorak I will never forget. There is a national park in the region. Its flowers bloom by the mountain. Majesty and beauty live together amongst the people of South Korea.
God is like that. His majesty and loveliness co-exist. It is what makes God who He is.
A petition to have Lisa LaFlamme reinstated as Chief News Anchor is gaining momentum. It has obtained over 197.000 signatures of their 200,000 goal. With each second that number increases. Please tell Lisa by signing it how much you care about her. Speak out against this injustice to a woman of grace, professionalism and beauty. One of the ways God helps people who are going through hard times is to show others support them. In doing that, you are truly there for that person. Here is the link for the petition.
Even if your efforts fail to bring Lisa back to CTV, you can look into the mirror every day and say, “I did not remain silent about the things that matter.”
“While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things is extraordinary.” – Matt Bevin, American businessman and politician
When this petition started the number of people who signed it started at one. In a little over two weeks it now is so close to 200,000 signatures. The ripple has become a tidal wave.
It is my earnest prayer that the parties involved in this dispute will sit down together and resolve their differences. It grieves God and Canadians to see how shabbily Lisa LaFlamme and her CTV colleagues are being treated.
I propose this as part of Bell handling the matter. Change the leadership at Bell Media. Follow the recommendation of CTV journalists to examine the oversight role of Karine Moses. Put Lisa LaFlamme back as Chief News Anchor. Have Omar Sachedina be a co-anchor with her. Give him a few more years under Lisa LaFlamme’s mentoring before making him Chief News Anchor. The two of them have worked together long enough to sort out the details of how this could succeed. Leave them alone to do that. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a beginning from which more conversations can happen.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
―Edward Everett Hale, American author, historian, and Unitarian minister
By signing the petition to reinstate Lisa LaFlamme you are that one. It’s something you can do. It may seem small like ripples in a pond, but that ripple can create positive change. Your voice makes a difference.
Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing at all. He can fix even this mess if the people involved do not harden their hearts, and listen to Him.