Give Me A Good Print Reporter Over Mansbridge


There has been a lot of praise for the 28 years of work by Peter Mansbridge of the CBC.

One of those places has been Bulldog Canadian where a cross-section of the country’s media has been laudatory.

There’s another view. This is one of the more interesting columns I’ve read in some time. John Doyle of The Globe and Mail has a completely different view of Mansbridge’s position at the CBC. Doyle’s column is interesting, thought-provoking and brash.

Mansbridge is a wonderful television performer. It is difficult to be on live TV as long as he has and it is a rare skill that he can cover live events with very few slip-ups.

In the video above, 22 Minutes comedian Mark Critch calls CBC’s Peter Mansbridge “Knowlton.”

That said, there are much better reporters in every major newspaper in Canada. I’d put even mediocre reporters against Mansbridge and they would eat him for dinner. That’s because for years people read newspapers because they broke news. Print reporters did the hard work of getting news. TV anchors re-packaged the newspaper’s work each evening or went to car crashes or meetings and put some film around it. There are exceptions to this but they are rare.

So he’s the star. That’s why he got the Order of Canada. But in terms of journalism, give me a hard-nosed reporter who will get news … not a smooth voice reading his or her work.

Those great print journalists don’t wear their Order of Canada pin at work. They just write most of the great stories of my lifetime while TV rips and reads them on air.

Those great journalists don’t get the Order of Canada. They get the satisfaction of a job well done.

It’s unfortunate that many TV talking heads garner awards for re-writing reporters work.

Here’s Doyle:

We have, in fact, shown too much deference to Mansbridge and his ilk for too long. There was a time when the national TV news anchor was a vital role in the culture. When TV was young, and there were fewer channels and the only competition was radio and print, coverage of major breaking-news events demanded an authority figure to calm the nation. Always male, always urbane, always a dad-like figure. That such anchor types are still presented to us is insulting.

The essence of the traditional anchor position now reeks of pomposity. And that pomposity was evident in Mansbridge’s announcement of his departure. The assumption that it’s a historic announcement. The long, long going-away period – almost a year – and Mansbridge attaching himself to CBC-TV’s coverage of Canada Day on the country’s 150th birthday. The latter is, obviously, an attempted act of attaching himself to the country’s history.

Pomposity is part of TV stardom. CBC, in particular, is its own bubble of self-regard and remoteness. Its stars often lose perspective, become immune from self-questioning inside that bubble. Only the CBC would give its main news anchor close to a year to say goodbye and the manner of Mansbridge’s leaving bespeaks an allegiance to him which, at this point, is puzzling.

To read the whole Doyle column, click here.

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7 thoughts on “Give Me A Good Print Reporter Over Mansbridge

  1. Mansbridge was not the source I went to for news.

    In fact, I do not go to the TV for anything except entertainment. He does, however, have a pleasant voice and I liked his TV interviews even though they were not hard-hitting fact-finding journalism.

    I didn’t know, until reading this article, that he was awarded the Order of Canada. I don’t pay any attention to those type of awards. Those are nothing more than getting the key to the city.

    I will miss him and his interviews.


    1. Chaz:

      After working in news on the Internet all day, the last thing I want to watch is the local television news or the network variety for that matter.

      I guess my complaint is not with Mansbridge in particular (he does a good job at reading the news and asking questions) but with television journalism in general.

      Remember the movie Spotlight? Well you would not have known the names of those Boston Globe reporters had it not been for the movie. But their reporting was better than anything than the blow-hards you see reading a teleprompter.

      That said, the blow-hards re-write the Globe story (or their people do it) and they read it on air. The hard-working, digging journalists for the Globe no doubt received little publicity compared to the nightly blow-hards who do 30 minutes of reading a night.

      And then you give them the Order of Canada. For what? Reading?

      Give me a good digging journalist over the daily blow-hard any day.

      Anchors are make-up. Print is where the real journalism is done (though less and less every day).

      What will the blow-hards do when print disappears? Put on their makeup and read the phone book on air?



      1. Ken,
        I won’t repeat my thoughts on the award you mentioned. When we lose the last of the newspaper journalists, who do the detective work, we will all be screwed.

        Aren’t press releases, reading the headlines and interviews under the trees news? Winston Smith had a good job writing Newspeak.


      2. What’s a phone book?

        In the internet age, why would I tune into their channel at a time of their choosing, to listen to their ideas about what is newsworthy with a spin that fits their agenda, and in the order that they choose, presented by a sometimes telegenic newsreader? “Their” is generic: CBC, CTV, Global, local or national. Rather, I tune into the websites I choose, when I choose, and read the articles that are of interest to me.

      3. Just the Order of Canada? Surely there must be some mistake that Peter Mansbridge has been overlooked for the Nobel Prize. Oh, the injustice!

  2. No one’s mentioned how Mansbridge first got his gig. Remember that he hinted that offers were coming from the States and he might leave. The CBC panicked and pushed out poor Knowlton Nash to “save” Peter from the nasty Americans. However, Keith Morrison, who was a top contender for the job when it would normally become vacant, had already left for the U.S. but was looking forward to a competition to come back.

    What people ignore is how desirable the job is. It may not pay as much as top US positions, but it pays very well and has much longer longevity (and you don’t have to live in the U.S., which can be an issue). You supplement your basic salary with “extras” when you do specials, like elections, etc., which add significantly to the income. You jet around Canada and the world, flying and staying first class wherever you go. It’s also the big fish in a smaller but significant pond vs. the unrelenting competition of American networks.

    I know that a number of potential candidates were very upset about the “coup” conducted by Mansbridge to take the job. Very typical CBC management decision-making. And very typical of the Mansbridge style.

    The inside issues in selecting a successor will be fascinating.


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