15 Minutes with Peter Mansbridge
Reader’s Digest: Looking back, 2015 was a pretty huge year for news. Did it feel that way for you?
Peter Mansbridge: It was well-rounded. You had the war stories with Syria and Iraq and the emotional reaction to the refugees, which connected with people all over the world. Domestically, you had the election, which we knew was going to be big, but then it was much bigger than we’d anticipated. A change of government, a new leader who is young and engaged…
And also very handsome.
Ha! He seems to have that going for him.
This month you have a cameo in Disney’s Zootopia, voicing a moose named Peter Moosebridge. How did that come about?
I got started in this business at age 19. I was working at an airport, and someone heard my voice over the PA system and offered me a job at the local radio station. With this film, I was at an airport once again. I was going through security in Toronto on my way to Vancouver, and the guy behind me said, “We were just talking about you in a meeting!” Turns out, he was the Canadian vice-president of marketing at Disney. Zootopia is a children’s movie with a good message about fairness and equality. I only have two or three lines. I was excited to do it for my grandkids.
Last year you appeared on an episode of Murdoch Mysteries. Has Canada’s most venerable newsman caught the acting bug?
No, no. I’m married to an actor. I think she’s kind of jealous that I have a part in what will be a huge film—I feel it could be the next Frozen. When I came home and told that to my wife [Cynthia Dale], she was not impressed.
During times of upheaval, do you miss hopping on a plane and going to the story?
I still go on the road as often as I can. I was in Paris right after the attacks. Part of me loves that. I was a reporter for 20 years. I was okay, but I wasn’t great. I understand where I’m best used. It’s like a good hockey team, where the coach and the manager know where to put their players.
When you were inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame last November, you said that public broadcasting isn’t about being popular, it’s about being relevant. Can you explain that distinction?
Newscasters are constantly tempted to cover what’s popular—water-cooler stories and all that. The public broadcaster is there to deal with what’s important. There are things about the day that are funny—you don’t want to give viewers the sense the world is going to end when the newscast does—but it’s a question of where you dwell.
How do you feel when you see someone in the vein of Kim Kardashian being described as a newsmaker?
Let’s put it this way: she’s never been a newsmaker on my program.
So it’s safe to say we won’t see you sitting down with a reality TV star any time soon?
I don’t think so. I’d like to interview Justin Bieber. We’re both from Stratford, Ont. He comes home a lot more than most people realize. You hear his jet—it’s the only jet that comes into the Stratford airport.