Mansbridge: “You’re Off to Great Things, I’ll be Watching for You”

He Noticed Me!

Meeting Peter Mansbridge was probably one of the most influential and amazing experiences so far throughout my media journey. Before this, Peter has been an idol and icon in Canadian media that I grew up with. My mom, dad and especially my grandma would never want to miss his opening “I’m Peter Mansbridge and this is the National”.

I’ve had Peter’s email for a long time now and it was on a sticky note for months. I was going to email him before I left for Vimy, but thought I’d wait and maybe run into him then. I didn’t, so I finally had the courage to email him in late April. I got a response within 2 days by his Administrative Officer, Teresa telling me that Peter read the email, checked out my website and wanted to meet with me. I didn’t want a phone meeting so arranging a time that worked for him was difficult, but obviously, I cleared my calendar pretty fast. I spent maybe an hour crafting Peter’s email to make sure it was just right. I was trying to be, you know, “professional” but a little bit of “fanboyish” came through which I guess worked.

Dear Peter Mansbridge,

I am Graham Beer the Executive Producer of Cobourg Media, offering local news, video and multimedia services. I am 16 years old and live in Cobourg Ontario. I have been covering local news and producing content since 2012, starting out as “Cobourg News”.  Since then, I have interviewed notables such as Kathleen Wynne, Clara Hughes, Hayley Wickenhiser, and covered an event with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. My website highlights what I do: I have a very strong passion for broadcasting and it is my lifetime goal to meet you before your July 1st sign off on the CBC. I am really proud to be able to turn on the TV every night and watch a program that captures our amazing nation impacting our world. An opportunity like this would inspire and motivate me for what lies ahead in my future and would be grateful for anything that could be arranged. I’ve seen you in person because I was at the Vimy100 Ceremony in France. Unfortunately, my cheer wasn’t loud enough for you to hear but it was nice to see you when you came out of the tent. I was there with my school but I also covered the ceremony for CityNews Toronto and my media channel interviewing people and sending out footage. It was an amazing experiance that I will never forget. Since creating my own online news channel when I was 12 I believe anything is possible including this great ambition to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to read and consider my message and I hope to meet you soon.

All the best, Graham

That email changed everything and I arranged to meet him for 20 minutes on May 23, 2017. His receptionist said if breaking news were to intervene then it might be canceled, so I was hoping for a slow news day.

Mansbridge and Beer, One on One

I was 30min early waiting in the CBC lobby. I had never been in the CBC building before, only in front of it, seeing the sets and displays kept me from the stress of what to say? What will Peter say? Teresa his receptionist gave me a tour of the Toronto and National Newsrooms. She showed me several studios and where the CBC Radio is produced. I went through the CBC News Network studio, which is connected to the newsroom. Until you walk through a building you never realize how everything is interconnected.

It was then I saw this big office with glass all around it overlooking the National Newsroom. It was Peter Mansbridge sitting at his desk looking at a computer screen. This was another “wow” moment. Teresa knocked on the door and introduced me to Mansbridge.

“Welcome to the CBC. Come on in”, Peter said.

I smiled and said, “Thank you for meeting with me it is a real honour.”

He quickly laughed and said: “let’s get started we have 15min.”

I felt like I was in grade 1 and he was the principal. I sensed his power. He told me to have a seat and I looked around his office. It was so personal with awards, artifacts and framed pictures. On the wall with no windows, there was a world map painted on it representing where he has been. There were also many boxes stacked up so you could tell he was starting the move towards retirement on July 1st.

He sat down, did the very classic leaning back stance and bluntly said: “What do you want from me?”

That question was the last thing I was expecting, so I replied and told him that I wanted to talk to him about his career and if he had any advice.

Interviewing Canada’s Interviewer 

I told him about myself and that this year was my 5th, producing media. I explained how Cobourg News had become Cobourg Media and how I had turned this into my business. Firstly I asked for advice. I told him that I am hoping to study media or business in University asked him what path I should choose.

He answered by telling me that I should go to journalism school, learn the fundamentals and then make sure I can do all aspects of the production, which I currently am doing. He asked if there were any local news stations I could work for in Cobourg? I smiled and told him no I am really the only one who does video newscasts. The closest is Peterborough. He told me to work up the ladder. I might also be lucky too, as cool opportunities come up that may surprise you. Indulge in those moments. A little hint to how he started at the CBC. Peter also mentioned how CBC hires students right out of university. They are writers, but 6 years down the road some never get far and are still in that position. You need to work up the food chain of this changing media industry.

I told him I have watched pretty much every CBC Digital Town Hall where there is a panel of CBC Journalists talking about everything from sources, formatting the news and telling all sides of the story. CBC has done around 5 across the country. I asked more personal questions that I can relate to.

GB: “How do you put the National together in one hour? How do you pick stories that all Canadians can relate to?”

PM: “It’s just that, we have to find the stories that give the most impact on our viewers. On a typical night, we start with a story that is political, about health or money. Breaking news and world issues change that if something comes up and is worthy to talk about.”

GB: “Have you ever been to Cobourg?”

PM: “Yes I have been several times. The waterfront and historic downtown are just beautiful. When I was considering moving to a permanent home with my wife Cynthia, we considered Cobourg as one of our homes. Cynthia, an actress for so long, the theatre town of Stratford Ontario was a better fit. I hope to be back to Cobourg soon.”

GB: “How do you approach people to ask them questions about anything? It hasn’t been easy for me to approach people on the street, they don’t feel comfortable or don’t know how to react.”

PM: “Make sure the people you approach feel involved and valued within the story you are going to ask them about. If people don’t look engaged, they probably don’t want to talk to you about it or be on camera. When you are interviewing someone make sure the focus is on them. Make sure they are closely connected with the events. It’s not about you, the journalist, the full focus is on the subject and what they have to say.”

GB: “Along with my business, we have video announcements at my school, all the classes watch on the smartboards and we have a news director, an editor, anchors, technical director, a full team, it’s really fun to produce a morning show every day at our school.”

PM: “So you’re the boss?”

GB: I laughed and said, “yes, yes I am.”

PM: How do you get your equipment and put this together?

GB: “I own most of it, from the switcher to cameras and Jib crane. I borrow a few things from the school, but I then lend my equipment to them too. It’s nice to have friends so interested in what I love to do.”

Peter and I talked about many other things such as our time at Vimy Ridge and how special the monument was during the Vimy100 Ceremony. I told him about my BBC tour and Peter said to me that he’s worked with many correspondents over the years.

“The BBC think they’re the veterans of TV and journalism. They think they’re way better, but our team has just as many or more experienced correspondents covering the globe.”

At this point, I really didn’t know what else to ask so I said,

“Thank you so much for giving me the time and opportunity, you have really been my idol for so long and I wish you well in your future endeavours. I know you’ll be back sooner or later. Many local viewers of mine have called me the Peter Mansbridge of Cobourg, I really don’t know if that is a good comparison, but that’s what they say.”

Peter laughed and smiled.

He got up from his chair, escorting me from his office to represent my 15 minutes of fame were over and he needed to go have a meeting with the other editors to finalize the stories for the evening. Teresa was waiting outside the door to get me so I felt that everything was timed perfectly.

“Nice meeting you, when I am in Cobourg next, I will give you a call and you can interview me in your studio. You’re off to great things Graham. I’ll be watching for you soon.”

By: Graham Beer,                        


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