Note from Ed.: This is the continuation and end of our look at the personalities who have anchored CBC-TV's National News (later rebranded as The National) from the beginning until the retirement of the current host, Peter Mansbridge, whose last newscast will air tonight. If you missed Part 1, click here to read that first.
Following the departure of Lloyd Robertson, the CBC resumed its search for a "real journalist", and in 1978 decided on Knowlton Nash, who had decades of experience in print journalism as well as broadcasting. He spent much of the hippy-dippy 1960s in the USA, covering virtually every major story of that time and that place. He stepped down from reporting in 1969 to join CBC's management in Toronto as Director of News and Current Affairs.
In 1978 he auditioned for the role of anchor, and was subsequently chosen. As a nod to his journalistic background, Mr Nash was given the title "Chief Correspondant" rather than "News Anchor". He continued in the role until his retirement in 1988, and died in March of 2014 at the age of 86.
Now it's time to acknowledge the news anchor who had the longest tenure, until Peter Mansbridge came along. That would be the comparatively little known George McLean, who in 1965 took over Rex Loring's role (see Part 1) as backup and weekend anchor. If the "regular" anchor wasn't there, not to worry, because George would get the job done. Known for his reliability and ability to stay calm in high-stress situations, Mr McLean would become one of the most recognizable faces and voices at CBC News. One reason for his success, some say, was that he looked and sounded a lot like Walter Cronkite! Here's a video of his goodbye newscast.
That telecast aired in 1988. George McLean, little remembered now, was on the job for over 20 years! He died in March of 2016, aged 92.
Now we come to Peter Mansbridge, seen here with Knowlton Nash, whose career with the CBC has spanned half a century. Really. As a callow youth of 19, he was working as a dogsbody at the airport at the end of the earth (Churchill MB) when he was called on to make an announcement over the public address system. The station manager for the local CBC affiliate heard his mellifluous tones and hired him on the spot! The rest, as they say, is history.
Peter Mansbridge debuted as the sole anchor of The National on 1 May 1988. He also served as co-anchor for CBC Prime Time News from November 1992 to the fall of 1995. During his 29 years as anchor, he has covered Canadian news stories including federal elections, party leadership conventions, the Meech Lake Accord negotiations, the Charlottetown Accord and its referendum, the 1995 Quebec referendum, floods in Manitoba in 1997, ice storms in Ontario and Quebec in 1998, the six days in September 2000 that marked the death and state funeral of Pierre Trudeau, and the 2003 blackout across much of eastern North America.
He has also anchored coverage of many world events, both in the studio and on the scene. In the studio, he anchored coverage of the Gulf War, the War in Kosovo, the 9/11 attacks and the 2014 Parliament Hill shootings. He was on the air live when the 2003 invasion of Iraq began and anchored coverage of it. On the scene, he anchored coverage of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the funerals of Princess Diana and Pope John Paul II, numerous royal, papal, and US presidential visits to Canada, numerous Olympic Games, and the inauguration of US President Barack Obama. He reported extensively from Normandy both 50 and then 60 years after D-Day and from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands for the 50th and 60th anniversaries.
With the retirement of Lloyd Robertson from CTV National News on 1 September, Mr Mansbridge became the longest-serving active anchor among the big three Canadian networks. Last night the CBC aired a well-deserved tribute to Peter. Here it is.