“I feel like Brad Pitt,” he said with a chuckle of the media attention. “I just don’t look like him.”
Mansbridge retired on July 1 after 49 years in broadcasting. His career didn’t have what he calls a “normal start”; having dropped out of high school, he was working for Transair at the airport in Churchill, Man. One day a ticket agent friend asked him to help out by doing a flight announcement over the terminal speaker. He did, and the station manager for the local CBC Radio station approached him to ask if he had ever considered broadcasting.
Mansbridge, age 19, was given a late-night music program, but says he wasn’t that great at it.
“I said to them, ‘You don’t have a news broadcast. Why don’t you let me start one?’ They said, ‘Yes, go ahead.’”
Mansbridge started his current events show, and began researching other news broadcasts around the world, thinking, he says, that if they could do it, so could he.
Two years later, Mansbridge moved to Winnipeg to work as a reporter, and started doing TV work a year after that. He was a reporter for the CBC evening news in Saskatchewan before moving to Ottawa to take up a job as the network’s parliamentary reporter.
He became anchor of the CBC’s “The National” in 1988 and since then, his name — and his iconic baritone broadcast voice — became a household thing.
It was an interesting three decades hosting “The National,” Mansbridge says, and he covered everything from federal elections to the Olympic Games to the death of Lady Diana.
Some of the most interesting stories, however, are the ones he didn’t tell on the air, and he’s preparing to spill the beans during a Canada-wide tour.
Starting at Mile One Centre in St. John’s on Oct. 21, Mansbridge will visit 16 venues across the country on his “The Stories Behind the Stories” tour, treating audiences to all the details that never made it to air.
“Quite often, the most interesting parts never get in, but you tell them to your friends,” Mansbridge told The Telegram. “The whole idea behind the tour is to peel back the curtain a little bit on how broadcast news operates, and to tell some stories — some embarrassing, some funny — that tell not only about me, but about Canada and about Canadians.”
Mansbridge, who’s still working as a freelance documentary filmmaker for the CBC, is reticent when asked for examples, preferring to keep the stories a surprise.
“I interviewed Barack Obama,” he says. “I had never interviewed a president, and it was the first time the CBC had ever done a one-on-one interview with a president. We spoke about a lot of things, but the most interesting stuff is not what happened on television, but what was happening around and before the interview.”
Mansbridge plans to use the last 20 minutes or so of each appearance on the tour for audience questions, and in a time where the news business is facing issues of change and credibility, he’s hoping to get into some good conversations.
He’s also looking forward to kicking off his tour in Newfoundland. He has been to the province a number of times, and counts some prominent locals among his good friends — no matter how much they torment him.
“Mark is an amazing guy, extremely talented,” he says, laughing, about comedian Mark Critch’s near-perfect impersonation of him on “This Hour Has 22 Minutes.”
“You have a collection of people from that province, like Mark and Rex Murphy and Alan Doyle and Allan Hawco, who really say something about Canada. Mark’s Instagram alone is better than a tourism ad.”
Tickets for Peter Mansbridge’s “The Stories Behind the Stories” event at Mile One Centre range from $46.50 to $107 (including tax and surcharge), and are available now at the Mile One box office, by calling 586-7657 or online at www.mileonecentre.com.