In the space of about two weeks, Canada named its first ever female news anchor — and then it named another. Both Dawna Friesen and Lisa Laflamme will take over top television news desks in the nation up North, replacing their male counterparts, and making history.
Friesen, who was reporting for American station NBC prior to this announcement, is “coming home” to take over the Global national news desk, replacing current anchor Kevin Newman.
A week earlier, following the news that longtime CBC anchor Lloyd Robertson was finally retiring, CBC national news had named Lisa Laflamme as Robertson’s replacement. But since Laflamme won’t take the desk until September, Friesen is technically the barrier-breaker.
The question now is whether or not Laflamme or Friesen will be successful. I’ve heard the theory batted around that most viewers simply feel that men are more trustworthy as news anchors because they fear women won’t be as impartial or unemotional and that the news will become too sentimental as a result.
In the US, female news anchor success has been a mixed bag.
I loved Campbell Brown’s show on CNN, but Brown admitted that she had to leave her position because she just didn’t have enough viewers. Frighteningly enough, the fire-and-brimstone legal “reporter” Nancy Grace regularly had around 250,000 more viewers than level-headed, “no bias, no bull” Brown. Brown was also up against both Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly, so her failure may have had less to do with being a woman and more to do with an impossibly competitive time slot.
When Katie Couric took over the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather accused her of dumbing it down and tarting it up, but Couric ultimately had the last laugh as her hard-hitting Sarah Palin interviews endeared her to the left (and probably a good portion of the right as well) — even garnering her a top journalism award.
Rachel Maddow will automatically turn off a certain percentage of the viewing population because of her openly-gay status, but those of us who love her love her hard.
And the teflon-coated Diane Sawyer hasn’t received much mainstream criticism since it was announced that she would take over for Charles Gibson at ABC, even if nightly national news broadcasts are not what they were.
So I guess we’ll have to see how Canada’s first two female national news anchors fair. I’m optimistic that the country is “ready” for a woman behind the news desk. Not based on any hard facts — I just hope that people have gotten over their bias and the theory that women won’t be able to keep their emotions in check while reporting.
But what do you think? Why has it taken Canada so long to make this move? Why are female anchors seen as “less serious” than their male counterparts? And what news shows do you watch?