Trina McQueen inducted into CBC News Hall of Fame

Journalist and broadcast executive Trina McQueen — a trailblazer who was one of the most powerful women in Canadian TV — has been inducted into the CBC News Hall of Fame.

Journalist and broadcast executive recalls industry battles she faced as a woman

Trina McQueen was honoured with the CBC News Hall of Fame award on Friday afternoon at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in Toronto. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Journalist and broadcast executive Trina McQueen — a trailblazer who was one of the most powerful women in Canadian TV — has been inducted into the CBC News Hall of Fame.

McQueen attended the inductee ceremony with friends and colleagues on Friday afternoon at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in Toronto.

The National's Adrienne Arsenault hosted the event. Speakers included CTV News president Wendy Freeman, CBC News editor in chief Jennifer McGuire, CBC executive vice-president of English services Heather Conway and McQueen herself.

"In her broad and storied career, Trina proved a true champion of Canadian programming and someone directly responsible for shaping Canada's broadcast landscape," Freeman said in her speech.

The audience — which included ex-CBC colleagues Tony Burman, Denise Donlon, Peter Mansbridge and Lloyd Robertson — heard how McQueen had a career of many firsts. She was W5's first female co-host, the first female reporter to appear on CBC's The National and the first woman to head a TV news organization in North America, Freeman said.

Freeman worked for McQueen when she was CTV president and COO from 1999 to 2001. "Trina was a true authentic leader at CTV — one who we all wanted to follow. She not only had the journalistic and business smarts but she had class and a good soul."

'Tell me again about women and authority'

McQueen shared some anecdotes about what it was like being a female journalist in the late '60s. She said she had interviewed for her CTV W5 job with the executive producer at his home in a sauna and endured sexist remarks from an underling when she was the executive producer of The National.

McQueen is seen working as a TV reporter in the 1960s. (CBC)

She told the audience that when the W5 executive producer was fired, she found herself working for the CFTO station and in the crosshairs of its station manager who said, "Women do not have the authority to do news."

McQueen's news director fought to keep her, but she said she left for a contract at CBC, where she stayed for 27 years. 

"As it happened, I went back to CTV as president of everything including CFTO," McQueen said. "And one night I went down to the newsroom and spoke to the ghost of the station manager and I said, 'Tell me again about women and authority.'"

McQueen said the CBC News Hall of Fame award "comes close to the Order of Canada for me."

She also spoke about the battles she fought as CBC vice-president of TV news and current affairs, including with the federal government over the public broadcaster's coverage of the constitutional crisis. McQueen recalled some great times such as launching Newsworld, Canada's first cable news channel, in 1989.

McQueen, right, covers Prince Charles's tour of the Northwest Territories for The National in April 1975. (CBC)

Other Hall of Fame inductees

The CBC News Hall of Fame was established four years ago to honour individuals who have "demonstrated a lasting impact on the CBC and Canadian journalism."

McGuire said the annual award was created after the death of Knowlton Nash in 2014 to "honour the giants and inspire the new generation of journalists at CBC."

McQueen, second from left, is pictured with then Newsworld chief Joan Donaldson, left, and Newsworld founding executive producer, Sandy McKean, second from right, for the launch of Newsworld on July 31, 1989. (CBC)

Nash, a former anchor and chief correspondent for The National, was the first inductee to the CBC News Hall of Fame in 2015.

Joe Schlesinger, a former CBC foreign correspondent, was inducted into the CBC News Hall of Fame in 2016.

And Barbara Frum, known best to Canadians as co-host of CBC Radio's As It Happens and later for CBC-TV's The Journal, was given the honour posthumously last year.