It's okay to be a male silver fox...but try going grey as a female news anchor and you might be in for a rude surprise

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      This week, the online petition to reinstate Lisa LaFlamme as the chief anchor on CTV News blew by its target of 150,000 signatures.

      Now, the goal has been upgraded to 200,000.

      It's a stark reminder of the magnitude of Bell Media's PR problem arising from its decision not to renew LaFlamme's contract after 35 years with CTV, including 11 as chief news anchor and senior editor.

      It must be especially stinging for LaFlamme, given that she helmed Canada's most-watched newscast and had just won the Canadian Screen Award for best national news anchor. 

      Her ouster gained momentum last week when the Globe and Mail, citing an unnamed source, reported that her boss had questioned who gave LaFlamme permission to go grey.

      LaFlamme, 58, didn't dye her hair during the pandemic when barbershops and hair salons were closed in Ontario. And nobody has explicitly stated that LaFlamme was fired because of the colour of her hair.

      However, there is now an independent workplace review underway at CTV News in the wake of the explosive Globe and Mail story.

      So, is there a double standard at play in TV news?

      Why does Anderson Cooper get to continue hosting a show on CNN with grey locks? Is it because with men, that's seen as distinguished?

      CNN's Anderson Cooper continues to age gracefully in front of TV viewers.
      Gage Skidmore

      Would someone like Richard Gere or George Clooney remain on the air if they were anchoring a national newscast?

      Certainly LaFlamme's predecessor, Lloyd Robertson, was allowed to stay in the anchor's chair long after his hair colour changed.

      And Robertson—unlike Gere, Clooney, and Cooper—was not exactly considered to be a silver fox by the time his tenure ended at the age of 77.

      Another aspect of this story that has gone unreported is CBC's history of transferring women from TV news to radio later in their careers. Perhaps they all requested this, not wanting to put up with the hassle of working in TV every day.

      As someone who has worked in TV news, I can say that it's far less pleasurable than working in radio.

      Here are just a few of CBC's female broadcasters who've made the switch from TV to radio over the years: Anna Maria Tremonti, Susan Bonner, Carol Off, Gloria Macarenko (who still hosts a weekly show in addition to hosting a daily radio program), Cecilia Walters, and Nahlah Ayed.

      None of them, however, has as high a profile as LaFlamme and none was anchoring a national newscast at the time they made the transition.