If TQS's news service hadn't been cancelled, Radio-Canada's announcement that Céline Galipeau will succeed Bernard Derome at the helm of its Téléjournal next January would have meant women would have anchored the late-night news on Quebec's three main television networks.
A formidable trio of experienced female journalists - Sophie Thibault, Céline Galipeau and Esther Bégin - would have reigned over the strategic 10 p.m. news broadcasts of TVA, RadCan and TQS. Without Bégin, who left along with TQS's news service, this still leaves the two main late-night news shows with female anchors. It's worth noting that in the rest of Canada and the United States, female late-night news anchors remain the exception.
Adding the fact that many of RDI's and LCN's news presenters are highly competent women and that RadCan's midday news show is anchored by experienced journalist Anne-Marie Dussault, this puts Quebec's TV networks at the head of the class on this continent when it comes to women in the field of news delivery.
This leaves two frontiers to be conquered. One is the analysis of the news. Unlike some major networks such as CNN, it's still mostly men here who do the analysis, whether with in-house commentators or guest columnists. The second frontier is radio news and current events.
Yesterday, RadCan also announced that Pascale Nadeau would be leaving the 6 p.m. news broadcast to become the week-end anchor of the Téléjournal, which will be anchored by women seven nights a week.
The remaining unknown yesterday was what will Dominique Poirier do? Poirier is a stellar journalist who made her mark at RadCan's Le Point before she took over RDI's 6 p.m news followed by her own one-hour show on current events.
Last week, Poirier and Nadeau were called into their boss's office. Nadeau was told she'd be losing her post as the local Montreal suppertime news anchor. It was confirmed yesterday that she would be replaced by Ottawa bureau chief Patrice Roy. Poirier was told she will be losing her RDI show. She was given the choice of either replacing Roy or hosting something else at RDI.
The news that Nadeau and Poirier were losing their shows provoked some strong reactions in the media. The process brought back memories of how, among others, Louise Arcand and Michèle Viroly, two outstanding RadCan journalists, had been ousted years ago allegedly for not looking young enough any more. No such eternal-youth obligation is ever put on older male anchors, In Quebec or anywhere else, who get to ride off into the sunset without a facelift.
The harshest reaction came from Christiane Pelchat, head of the Council for the Status of Women. She lashed out at RadCan for replacing Nadeau "with some guy who wants to come back to Montreal," adding that RadCan always had a "tendency of under-rating women."
Still, the record at RadCan and TVA tells a very different story. What remains to be done to make sure that female and male journalists get equal pay. At RadCan, an experts' committee was named to find a way to remedy the fact that in certain situations, it pays female journalists less than their male counterparts.
Where Poirier will go is also of interest. While it's true that in the past, a few RadCan male anchors or hosts such as Gilles Gougeon or Michel Lacombe got moved around unceremoniously to something else, it was mainly because they had been given a show that didn't suit their particular abilities and therefore failed.
Such is not the case for Poirier. Her news show is well respected and her talents fit its format perfectly. So here's hoping that she will be able to use those talents in her next job.
Still, over the years, radio and analysis of the news on television aside, Quebec's TV networks have been in the avant-garde on this continent when it comes to female journalists delivering or anchoring the news.
Pelchat might want to take a note of that.
Quebec is in the forefront of female news anchors
While the recent shuffles are setbacks, we still do well in gender equality on the air