I can’t believe it’s been 50 years since I first walked in the door at CTV, a kid at 23, fresh out of university and thrilled to have talked my way into a job at CTV National News.
And talk about starting at the very bottom rung, in what was clearly a man’s world —with only a tiny handful of women in television news at the network level in North America. In 1973, all the executives, producers, and anchors were men.
Little did I know or even dream that seven years later, after starting as an assistant to Don Cameron, the director of News, I would be promoted to news anchor of Canada AM earning the distinction of becoming the first woman in Canada to anchor a daily network newscast.
Perhaps it was because when he hired me, I told him with the brashness of youth that one day I would be hosting the morning show —or when he promoted me to the public affairs program W5 after I kept badgering him about an opportunity to do investigative work
Or perhaps it was because when I wanted to report, he assigned me to Canada AM to learn about the grind of daily news.
With every promotion Don threw in the caveat — “you’re going to have to prove yourself “and with that I was on three months’ probation.
Both former CTV News chief political correspondent Craig Oliver and I tell each other how grateful we are for his vision.
The crusty hard-nosed journalist demanded excellence from everyone he hired, but he also went against the grain and opened the doors to women.
And believe me, those were challenging years for women in journalism —sexual harassment, discrimination, stereotyping, and misrepresentation; certainly more pervasive and ugly south of the border, but female journalists in Canada were not immune.
I remember while reporting for CTV’s Toronto News Bureau, an incident where a gruff assignment editor asked one of the male reporters —“Where’s the broad? I want her to file a consumer piece.” I went to the editor and asked if what I’d heard was true. He told me not to be so serious —to lighten up. Imagine that?
Like other women at the time, I had to push back against being stereotyped — push back against the perception women weren’t as tough as men, weren’t able to ask the difficult questions, or deliver the story under demanding circumstances.
I can tell you that no industry is perfect, and today there is still discrimination — more rampant in some circles than others. But the difference now is that women have created platforms to be heard and there is more safety in numbers.
Despite the challenge of working in a male dominated profession — or perhaps because of it, there were trailblazers — women like Barbara Frum, Wendy Mesley, and Adrienne Arsenault at the CBC — Carole Taylor, Helen Hutchinson and Lisa LaFlamme at CTV —Dawna Friesen at Global —who stand as examples to generations of young journalists.
I remember thinking a few years ago, that I wish Don Cameron was alive to see the News division almost five decades after he hired me. A seismic shift— with the executive producer, a woman, the two main national anchors — women, and the multitude of female reporters.
CTV National News Anchor Sandie Rinaldo
Today we can boast a strong group of both men and women of all races and backgrounds; a playing field where those with talent are recognized and encouraged.
Young journalists, men and women, come up to me now and tell me they grew up watching me on television. I smile and say, the door is open to you now. It’s your time to make a difference.
- In the hour-long special I’M SANDIE RINALDO, the longtime CTV anchor explores her family’s history, tracing her roots across Canada and around the world, airing at 9 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 12 on CTV, CTV News Channel, CTV.ca, CTVNews.ca, and the CTV and CTV News apps