July 2, 2020

Winnipeg
19° C, Clear

Full Forecast

Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Opinion

Mansbridge owes reign to luck, not skill

CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES</p><p>CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge. The veteran anchor’s retirement will mark the end of an era in television broadcasting. </p>

CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge. The veteran anchor’s retirement will mark the end of an era in television broadcasting.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/9/2016 (1382 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Anyone who enjoys a good fairy tale ought to check out the career of Peter Mansbridge, the CBC’s national news reader, as it draws to a close.

His is the story of an entirely unremarkable guy who, through both accident and design, was transformed into an elite Canadian journalist, one of the highest-paid by Canadian standards and one of the most recognizable. Many moments in this story invite amazement.

It’s well known that Mansbridge was discovered when, as a high school dropout, he was working as a baggage handler for Transair, a small airline in Churchill.

One of his occasional duties was calling flights. A traveller in the radio business liked that deep baritone voice and offered him a job. Mansbridge, who’s on record as never having considered journalism, accepted, and started off on his new path as lifelong lottery winner. That was 1968.

Almost 50 years later, Mansbridge has been king of the castle, host of the CBC’s flagship nightly news show The National for almost 30 years. On its Labour Day edition, he announced his coming resignation, delivering it with a gravitas worthy of a royal abdication or a pope preparing to leave the Vatican, letting his followers know that, sadly, he would leave them almost a year later, on their 150th birthday.

In his younger years, Mansbridge never claimed to be a crack reporter or an astute interviewer. He admits he just followed the money, going from radio reporter to television host, competent in both, excelling in neither. For example, during a live telecast of a royal visit by HRH Princess Anne to Winnipeg, he could not tell the difference between the princess and a stewardess. He recalls that story with good humour.

His usefulness had little to do with talent, but he had a testosterone-induced authority and an emotional remoteness that the times and the media required. It was enough to get noticed by an American network, which offered him his own show. Again, he followed the money and accepted the job — until his aging mentor Knowlton Nash suddenly stepped aside to allow him the top job in Canada.

As is customary for anchors, Mansbridge enjoyed credit for the work of an ever-evolving team of journalists who found the stories and wrote the words he read and who were paid a pittance of his salary. On the strength of their work, CBC image-makers crafted Mansbridge into both patriarch and patriot, the eyes and ears and the face of a nation.

The success of this campaign was cemented in July 2008, when he was made an officer of the Order of Canada. On the list of Canadians who had taken huge personal risks, made sacrifices, confronted debilitating controversies and shown indisputable commitment to the well-being of their fellow citizens, Mansbridge was honored for his prominence and longevity.

Mansbridge’s parting self-reverence has provoked a wave of discontent and a clear lack of gratitude for his services, especially from journalists who understand the difference between kitchen workers and the maitre d’hotel. This should not surprise him: the irascible Frank magazine had always referred to him as Mansbingo — the nation’s chief bingo caller. Now other voices have chimed in: "smug," they’re saying, "pompous." Critics at Ipolitics dubbed him "a decaffeinated Ted Baxter" and "shopworn meat puppet." That’s got to sting a little, but it’s nothing money can’t soothe.

In an ironic twist, Mansbridge now finds himself on the sharp end of serious journalism, exposed as making an obscene amount of money for merely putting his voice to the labours of researchers, writers, editors, producers and technicians. The website Canadaland reports (and Mansbridge has not denied ) his most recent salary is just over $1 million a year, plus perks, earning him three times the salary of the prime minister. As the news business is driven to its knees, his negotiated pension will be $500,000 a year, enough to hire 10 journalists with student loans to pay off.

It’s a happy ending for the king of the news, but this fairy tale will not be repeated. News media as a castle, a vendor of faces and voices, a fortress of the establishment sheltering artificial royalty is history. The villagers are armed with more information than ever. Goodbye, Peter Mansbridge.

Lesley Hughes is a Winnipeg writer and a former current affairs host at CBC Radio.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us