Mansbridge reflects life in journalism in airy, conversational memoirs


The baggage handler clicked the microphone in Churchill Airport.

“Transair Flight 106 for Thompson, The Pas and Winnipeg is now ready for boarding at Gate 1.”



In this 1996 photo, Peter Mansbridge (left) and then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien prepare to open a television recording in Ottawa.

When he finished the announcement, the baggage handler could see a man walking across the room towards him.

“You have a really good voice,” said the man. “Have you ever thought of being on the radio?”

As many Canadians already know, the bag handler was Peter Mansbridge and the rest is history – his and ours.

Have you always wanted to have a coffee or a beer with the longstanding presenter of CBC-TV’s? The national? reading Off the record is the next best thing.

Mansbridge’s third book is a breeze, with bite-sized chapters written in conversational style.

The 73 year old Mansbridge who is now called a daily podcast. moderated The bridge and the occasional documentary, with no high school diploma or college degree, but got to the top of his profession through hard work, good luck and what he calls an indefinable “it” – the quality of trust that comes from how well, a TV -Journalist arrives at the audience.

He was a witness to history: he was standing next to the Berlin Wall when it was torn apart (and was holding a piece); about the funeral of Princess Diana from the same spot in front of Buckingham Palace from which it had covered her wedding.

Mansbridge shares his favorite on-air slip-ups, including this gem when Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister and out of the country when the Supreme Court made a major constitutional decision.

“The Prime Minister is on the other side of the world in Seoul, South Korea, which is thirteen hours ahead of us. Trudeau is in bed right now, but our David Halton is with him. David?”

Some stories are really moving.

A young girl in Sri Lanka tells him “Ca-na-da” is good because three Canadian nurses flew there immediately after a tsunami to vaccinate victims against water-borne diseases.

Chris Young / The Canadian Press files</p><p>Mansbridge, which featured here in 2018, is now home to a daily podcast called The Bridge.</p>

Chris Young / Canadian Press Files

Mansbridge, which featured here in 2018, is now home to a daily podcast called The Bridge.

A Vietnamese mother in a Hong Kong refugee camp hugs her baby in Mansbridge to give the child a better life, and Mansbridge is forced to return the baby.

Full Disclosure: I met Mansbridge when we were both new journalists in the early 1970s and he never forgot.

When I was a journalism teacher at Red River College 20 years later, Mansbridge spoke to my students four times in seven years and told them they were lucky enough to have me.

I am forever grateful and want to end this review here.

But I would not be faithful to the journalistic ethics we both believe in if I did not point out two blatant omissions in these memoirs, both of which have to do with Wendy Mesley.

The CBC journalist can be seen in a newsroom photo and Mansbridge credits her for helping him create the regular At Issue political panel.

Mansbridge doesn’t mention, however, that the two were married for three years and worked together in the air before, during, and after the marriage. Readers may have been interested in some of these behind-the-scenes dynamics.

Worse, Mansbridge doesn’t mention Mesley’s recent “exit” from the CBC.

In a cry from the heart published in the Globe and post In early July, Mesley apologized for using the full version of the N-Word twice in story meetings.

She argued that her mistake should be weighed against her entire career of harsh, investigative reporting that paved the way for women in journalism, publicly battled cancer, and encouraged others to do the same.

Mesley spoke to many community groups, including Red River College journalism students.

Although Mansbridge spends his longest chapter reflecting on the current state of journalism, he does not write a word about the controversy that ended the careers of his longtime colleague and his ex-wife.

Journalists who have open story meetings about what to air and what not to air are fundamental to the integrity of television journalism, Mansbridge writes early on, and gives many specific examples in the book.

How can he ignore the important questions raised by the Mesley case? Was her use of an offensive word in two story meetings a valid reason for the CBC to fire her?

If Mansbridge made a deal with Mesley to keep their marriage and controversy out of the book, or the process was still going on at press, he should at least have given readers credit.

If not, he owes it to her – and us – to tell us what he really thinks. Donald Benham is a freelance writer, former journalism teacher, and summer reporter for CJOB, 1972.


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