Peter Mansbridge dissed my Iphone and other tales from a CBC tour with my senior journalism students

Centennial Journalism students meet Peter Mansbridge, CBC’s The National chief anchor, at CBC HQ in Toronto

It’s not every day I get to show my students a real working newsroom, nor have them hob nob with Canada’s most famous news anchor, Peter Mansbridge.

The encounter came at the end of a half day behind the scenes tour of CBC where my graduating journalism students got a close look at how local, national and international news is produced.  For many platforms, including radio, online, and local and national television.

Although our host, Mark Mietkiewicz was a little reluctant to bother Mansbridge, I insisted we get a look at his new office on the fourth floor of the CBC building at 250 Front Street West. Mansbridge, always amenable to talking to journalism students, came out, and greeted our group.

After all, I reasoned: he’d already met them before, kind of, when he spoke at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus a few years ago. At least that’s what I told him. I even named dropped, mentioning one of the students who had interned with him for a few days directly as a result of his visit there.

He asked us what we’d thought of the tour, and I told him we got to see the Toronto supper hour newscast be off the air for the first 10 minutes of the show. That was a really unusual occurance (you can actually call it a disaster in the tv news biz), which had the anchor reading an apology, and the control room staff coping with the unforseen.

After the quick Q and A session, I begged Mansbridge for a group photo, and he kindly agreed. So I whipped out my I phone and asked our host Mark to do the honours and take some pictures.

When my sluggish cell phone with the cheap flowered pink rubber case took its sweet time coming to life, that’s when the ribbing from Canada’s most trusted anchor started.

“What, is that a 3G?” he said, incredulously. “Why don’t you have a 4G?”

I mumbled something about not being able to afford one, embarrassed.

Only later, when the tour was over, did one of the students confirm that, yes, my I-phone had been dissed.

Do you think that is a small price to pay for a photo op with one of our idols?

What would Steve Jobs do?

That was the highlight of the tour for me.  But for my students, it might have been getting the chance to sit at Mansbridge’s anchor desk in the main CBC studio where they do “The National” every night.

And oh, by the way, he was wearing a purple dress shirt, in case you watch tonight’s show. Check it out, and see if he changed.

Of course, Mansbridge doesn’t sit. He stands, as we all know, since they revamped the look of the studio. Only the anchors for the CBC News Toronto local supper hour show get to sit down when they use the same set between 5 and 6:30 p.m.

Kyle Larkin in the studio of “The National” at CBC Headquarters in Toronto
Jessica Lee sits at the anchor desk in “The National” tv studio.
Yamri Tadesse ready for prime time at CBC ‘The National” studio

Speaking of the studio, we learned that it had been designed by a fellow who actually isn’t a TV insider, but rather, runs and designs nightclubs. Including a couple on Queen Street in Toronto. That explains the cool, disco lights and non-traditional materials they used to give the studio its distinctive look.

And, we learned you could transform the studio into a nightclub in no time at all.

Good to know in case we need to book a graduation party, or our next corporate function from Centennial Journalism.

Sophia Hadzipetros, Managing Editor of CBC News Toronto explains the lineup for tonight’s Toronto local supper hour show with  Mark Mietkiewicz, Staff development, and David Downey,  compliance, our tour guides for the CBC Tour.
Alexandra Sienkiewicz, Centennial Journalism/U of T joint program grad from 2007, now show producer of the CBC Toronto supper hour newscast.

Do you think she looks a bit stressed? Alexandra Sienkiewicz was typing in an apology for the anchor Dwight Drummond to read on air, after it was discovered that the first 10 minutes or so of the 5 o’clock newscast weren’t seen by viewers due to mix ups in some master control room somewhere (we’re not quite sure what happened).

She was in the first class of joint journalism students who took the combined U of T/ Centennial four year program at the college’s Morningside campus when I began teaching the core News Reporting class there in 2006.

We also visited with the CBC Radio program “The World this Hour” and watched host Bernie McNamee read the 4 o’clock news, and perhaps we brought bad luck everywhere we went today, because at about 3 minutes into the broadcast, we started hearing him have trouble breathing. Then he would turn the mic off for a second, resume the newscast, and read like he was choking.

I was worried he was sick. The students in the control room looked at each other and wondered what was going on.

My old friend, producer Peter Leo, didn’t appear too worried, though.  And eventually, McNamee made it through the 9 and a half minutes, without any further trouble.

Kyle Larkin and Bernie McNamee with Mersiha Gadzo

Afterwords, he told the students the audience is usually very forgiving of stumbles. What they hate, he told us, is when you pronounce a place name incorrectly. Then, watch out!

Melanie Schawill at the CBC Weather Centre

Do you like ad libbing without a teleprompter, do you like gesturing to a monitor on the side of the studio, and pretending you can actually see the cities, their temperatures, and the cold fronts moving in from the west?

Then presenting the weather is for you.
Our students got to try their hand at being weather forecasters at the CBC weather centre. And, oh yeah, when we arrived, the anchor, Michelle Leslie was stressing out because her weather computers weren’t working.

It seems to have been a theme today. Bad luck everywhere we went. Eventually, Nick Czernkovich, her colleague and national weather anchor, was able to get the weather computers working.

Octavian Lacatusu learning how to do the weather
Mersiha Gadzo shows us showers in Buffalo
Mersiha Gadzo with Ellin Bessner behind the lines at the CBC Weather Centre
A special special thanks to our tour guides extraordinaire Mark Mietkiewicz and David Downey of CBC News, who also showed us the “Here and Now” radio program, the High Risk deployment desk which takes care of reporters and crews in dangerous places like Afghanistan and Libya, and took us through the maze of corridors and control rooms that make up the 4th-5th-6th floors of the amazing CBC building.

Cool CBC Weather thermometers, and some Online News handbooks, and some great contacts for future internships.

2 thoughts on “Peter Mansbridge dissed my Iphone and other tales from a CBC tour with my senior journalism students”

  1. Thanks, Ellin, for getting our students into the inner sanctum of the CBC. I hope we can fill their building with our people in the near future!

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