Off the Record, by Peter Mansbridge

Nine stars

A fan of all things Canadian, I was excited to get my hands on this book by Canadian news icon, Peter Mansbridge. A collection of vignettes about the man’s storied career, from airport employee in Churchill, Manitoba to anchor of The National, Canada’s premier nightly newscast, Mansbridge tells of his various adventures in a way many Canadians have come to love. Showing how adored he was, no matter who crossed his path, Mansbridge brings something to the table to entertain and educate in equal measure while regaling the reader with factoids they had no idea existed.

Born in England, Mansbridge and his family moved around for a number of years while his father had posts in the British Civil Service. When they eventually made it to Canada, the Mansbridges were never a wealthy family, but filled their house with love and admiration of one another and anyone who crossed their paths. Peter speaks of his love for family and inquisitive side, which earned him a number of accolades by those who knew him in his formative years. His life led him along a number of interesting paths, none of which as exciting as when he was ‘discovered’ while announcing a flight in the tiny airport of Churchill, Manitoba, where someone from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) heard his deep baritone and offered him a radio job on the spot.

Mansbridge tells of his emerging in the world of media and reporting soon thereafter, climbing the ranks of the CBC as he made a name for himself. His love of people shone through and he was soon interviewing people of some importance all over the country. He continued to impress and was soon given key postings in television, making the Mansbridge name one that senior members of CBC could not deny.

Through a series of short entries, Mansbridge tells how he was given a great path to success and eventually handed the anchor seat of the CBC’s flagship news program, The National, the nightly summary of the day’s events. Mansbridge would serve as the chief correspondent for the CBC for years, making an impact on the viewer, as the likes of Cronkite, Jennings, and even Tom Broken had in the era when news was still a valued commodity, well before the 24 hour news cycle. These years would help make him into the respective journalist he was up until his retirement.

Mansbridge mixes work with pleasure throughout the piece, showing that he is more than a man behind the desk reading the news. His passion for family and those he loved made all the difference to him. Those stories that he shares about personal events touch the reader as much as reporting on major historical, political, and military goings-on in the world. It is, perhaps, this personal side that makes all the difference in the book’s delivery and helps the reader connect well with Mansbridge. While he was loved by many and respected by even more, it was his ‘real’ side that made him all the more affable.

While I knew some of the stories that Mansbridge offered up in the book, there were so many that were new to me. This ‘behind the curtain’ look at his life made the read all the more enjoyable and left me hungering for even more. I cannot say that I walked away with as many juicy tidbits in another book over the last while and yet I feel as though I want to know more. Those looking for salacious admissions can look elsewhere, but Mansbridge delivers with a hint of dignity and a great deal of grace, peppering his narrative with just enough humour to keep the reader smiling. I am not sure what to say, other than to recommend that those who know of Peter Mansbridge and The National will likely want to get their hands on this book to learn more about the man and the many stories he has to share. If I were a betting man, I would venture to say that there are MANY more stories that could fill numerous other volumes, given the time and energy.

Kudos, Mr. Mansbridge, for this brilliant piece. I grew up watching you on television and admire you even more now!