Global Montreal repays Jamie Orchard’s decades of service by laying her off

Jamie Orchard at her desk in the Global Montreal studio

In 1997, as the Global Television Network was preparing to launch a new station in Quebec, it tapped a 31-year-old entertainment reporter for market leader CFCF to be one of its anchors. Jamie Orchard told the Montreal Gazette at the time that “it was one of those offers I couldn’t resist. Being part of a new station getting off the ground is rare opportunity and an unbelievable challenge.”

At first, she hosted an entertainment show on the local station. Then the morning show, another entertainment show, the late-night newscast, and since 2004 she has been the senior anchor and the face of the station and its local news.

Or had. On Thursday, Orchard announced that she had been laid off, one of apparently dozens of people across the country that Corus Entertainment has decided are no longer needed.

While it’s usually standard procedure in broadcast media to have on-air staff escorted out the door when they’re told they’re being dumped, and certainly never put in front of a live microphone again, Orchard was allowed to stay on for another month, keeping the news secret that whole time, and give an on-air goodbye. (It doesn’t look like Global posted it online.)

It’s a testament to the trust Orchard has built with the station, and its viewers, and station manager Karen Macdonald, who has also been with it since the beginning.

Orchard’s social media announcement sparked a lot of reaction, including a message from Montreal’s mayor and its former mayor.

The union, headed by veteran reporter Anne Leclair, also issued a statement saying “Jamie is an excellent journalist who always approached every subject with great professionalism. She is a model for ethical journalism. We are also losing an important voice and key connection between our newsroom and Montreal’s English-speaking community.” The statement notes that the station has lost 10% of its newsroom permanent staff this summer, not including Orchard.

Naturally, the news angered Global Montreal’s viewers. Not that it has too many of them, falling well behind CTV Montreal in audience for its entire existence.

Its small audience may be loyal, but their threats to change the channel won’t matter. Local news is a money loser for Global in eastern Canada, and cutting costs has more of an effect on the bottom line than feeding that loyalty.

My reaction to this news isn’t so much anger as it is disappointment. Global seemed to be headed in the right direction. After years of cutting to the bone and centralizing the tasks of news production, there seemed to be an air of renewal, with new staff being hired and a new focus on online reporting as the future of journalism. But this summer, facing a budget crunch caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Global backtracked and laid off that young, diverse workforce it had just hired.

Since I first visited Global Montreal and met Orchard more than a decade ago, I was left with the impression that the small station with limited resources had one special thing going for it: its staff was close, like a family. That’s why, I was told at the time, staff turnover was so low.

It’s why Orchard said she would stay as the station’s anchor for as long as it would have her. It’s why she was allowed to say goodbye on air, because she could be trusted with that.

It’s unfortunate that, 23 years later, Corus Entertainment couldn’t be nearly as loyal to Orchard as she was to her employer.

UPDATE (Sept. 22): Rather than hire a new anchor, Global has decided to have Montreal’s local evening newscast anchored out of Toronto.

21 thoughts on “Global Montreal repays Jamie Orchard’s decades of service by laying her off

  1. Dan Shields

    Here is what is insane in my opinion. And It is a Canadian thing. Why lay off your stars? It really doesn’t help the brand. If you have a mid day person or an anchor who has been there 21 years your goal should be to get them to year 22. This happens all across Canada. It doesn’t happen Stateside. A good example of keeping talent forever is WCCO TV 4 Twin Cities. I became familiar with them in the after math of George Floyd. A lot of their talent has been there for 40, 50 years. That has to help at revenue time.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Why lay off your stars? It really doesn’t help the brand.

      With respect to Jamie Orchard, she isn’t exactly Mutsumi Takahashi. Global Montreal simply doesn’t have the ratings power to justify keeping a veteran anchor employed at any cost. The newscast is a big money loser for the station, and the amount of advertising they might lose by ditching their anchor will be far less than what it would have cost to keep her.

      Reply
  2. Dilbert

    I think the concept of COVID layoffs is a little misleading. As you say in the story, news is a money loser for Global in many markets, Montreal being a fairly big expense at that. COVID is perhaps a nice cover for something they would have done anyway at some point.

    Anyone who has been around that long has to be expensive to keep on staff. Laying her off or perhaps having to cut two or three juniors to get to the same point is not a difficult decision. The juniors are more bang for your buck material, and quite disposable. As the Global newscasts were not exactly raking in the audience, it’s unlikely that her departure and replacement by one of the juniors will make a significant different.

    It’s sad. She’s done a great job, but all that greatness is irrelevant when it comes to making the accountants happier.

    Reply
  3. Edmund Gleason

    Hi. Could that be why Paul Karwatsky has`nt been on CTV for a third straight week? Could he be replacing Jamie Orchard?

    Reply
  4. Lubin Bisson

    Karen Macdonald has been central to Global’s ‘existence’ in Quebec. Nice that you wrote about Orchard, but, Macdonald is the real story. Total Astérix, although, not sure if she ever had an Obélix with her.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The worry is that the answer to this question is “no one”. Andrea Howick has been taking over anchor duties, at least in the short term.

      Reply
  5. Irwin Block

    Jamie’s departure underlines the sad state of affairs in conventional TV – We hope and trust this experienced and talented professional will soon find work elsewhere…

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    Terrible news, I understand they are going through a restructuring, however this is very concerning considering how long she has been there. Is global Montréal going anchor-less much like city news Montreal

    Reply
  7. Viewer

    Staff turnover was low at Global Montreal, because there are few full time English media jobs left in Quebec. Anyone who had a prized staff job stayed. Unless they wanted to leave the business.

    Reply
    1. Gazoo

      Guess this why Kelly Greig and Billy Shields both left Global for the competition. Kelly a few years ago, Billy more recent.

      Reply
  8. Jeffrey

    Jamie was never above a story, She never spoke down to anyone. Her work ethic & humility respected by all. She never accepted a gift, nor sought out a perk. There are several anchor-like personalities filling chairs in recent years – big shoes to fill. Jamie will always be the touchstone of journalistic integrity. Irreplaceable.

    Reply
  9. Dan

    The fact that Jamie was able to make Global News Montreal a relevant voice in such a minuscule market gives a clear impression to the extent of her competence & qualifications. City TV Montreal would be foolish to not recruit her to up the ante of their newscast.

    When the legendary Mitsumi is sent off to pasture, it will be interesting to see how CBC, Global, City poster, and whether CTV will be able to keep their dwindling audience from slipping through their fingers even more.

    One thing for sure (and surely execs know it), there is absolutely nobody waiting in the sidelines with Mitsumi’s midas touch…..that is for sure!

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      City TV Montreal would be foolish to not recruit her to up the ante of their newscast.

      CityNews has a standard format across the country that does not include a news anchor. I doubt Rogers will make an exception for Montreal, where its viewership is poor.

      Reply
    2. Dan

      Re City TV : “up the ante of their newscast” . I meant to suggest in the capacity of a News directorial role not as an anchor.

      Reply
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