“So. That’s The National, for this Friday night. For CBC News, I’m Peter Mansbridge. Thanks for watching. Thanks for watching all these years. It’s been quite the ride for me, but always a privilege to be a part of bringing a national story home to you from wherever that story may be. I can only hope you found it worthwhile, too. Goodbye, and good night, from Ottawa.”
June 30th, 2017 saw a bittersweet moment for the legendary news anchor, signing off from his trusted post for the last time, but one that was richly deserved: since May 2nd, 1988, Canadians loyally tuned in to Mansbridge nearly every weeknight—typically following stressful world events and breaking news at home—for the journalist’s in-depth reportage and reassuring calm. He was, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says, the voice of “it’s going to be okay.”
It’s no wonder, then, why the CBC’s Toronto office has since renamed its lobby space “Mansbridge Hall,” a space as welcoming and bright as the man himself.
“Did I ever tell you how I started?” Mansbridge asked his CBC colleagues at his farewell speech in Mansbridge Hall. Mansbridge’s personal story could fill a week’s worth of National coverage. As luck would have it, Mansbridge got his first radio job at 19 when a CBC station manager heard Mansbridge’s now iconic voice making a flight announcement as an airport ticket agent, accidentally kicking off an epic journey into broadcasting that would see him covering news on the ground for CBC Radio and CBC Television, and later, hosting weekend installments of The National in 1982. When CBC anchor Knowlton Nash retired in 1988, Mansbridge was invited to take centre screen, and did so with honour for 29 years. (“I don’t thank the fellow who heard my voice in that airport enough,” Mansbridge said in his farewell speech.)
If his story sounds like it would make a great biopic someday, we’d agree—and why not? It’s not like the veteran broadcaster is new to the silver screen (If you haven’t seen Walt Disney’s Oscar-wing animated movie Zootopia, make sure you do—and be on the lookout for one very newsworthy moose with one very newsworthy voice).
But it’s not just Manbridge’s baritone that’s golden: His screen presence strikes a rare balance. Perhaps Ron MacLean says it best of his cherished colleague: “that amazing mix of grace and gravity—he can be so important, with such a humble touch.”
MacLean captures it perfectly. With grace and gravity, Mansbridge has seen it all, reporting dutifully under the CBC for nearly 50 years. From hard-hitting news to light-hearted community stories, his heart, sense of humour, and wise words hit home for Canadians, whether they tuned in to The National from Victoria, Iqaluit, or St. John’s.
His decades-long legacy of integrity and humble pursuit of knowledge for all Canadians are two of many reasons why the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television honour Mr. Mansbridge with the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award: for his exceptional career of work, which has had a profound impact on the media industry in Canada and abroad.
“I have been incredibly lucky as many people in this corporation have been through their careers,” Mansbridge reflected, again in his farewell speech, making sure to thank his team that works as hard as he does. “Enduring friendships with people coast to coast to coast, through the magic of television. As I walk out of here this week, I walk out knowing full well that the success that I’ve had has been on the shoulders of many of you in this room.”
Written for the Academy by Jake Howell
Illustration designed for the Academy by Kathleen Walsh
Mansbridge on The National
Peter Mansbridge in his younger years
Peter Mansbridge in his early reporting days
Peter Mansbridge’s behind-the-scenes feature from Zootopia
Peter Mansbridge with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau