Surprisingly, I had a really good time at the CBC TV 2006-2007 Season Preview last week. I say surprising because I usually shut down at these kind of events, since they’re all about mingling and glad-handing – stuff I’m not very good at. However, when I arrived at the CBC headquarters in Toronto, I picked up my media kit and the publicists recognized me! There was no "Popjournalism who?" or questions like "What exactly is Popjournalism?" That was a good start.
It was especially nice considering that this was the first Season Preview event I’d ever attended. I’m not usually the type to gaga over celebrities, but I’ll admit that it was sort of cool to see all the CBC TV and news personalities seated around the room. The studio that housed us was flashy too, with a movie screen over a white catwalk in the centre, surrounded by a horseshoe of chairs – the chairs were, charmingly, all mismatched and probably gathered from the prop department.
The presentation itself was all about glossy promotion, but The National's Peter Mansbridge lightened up the sell-sell-sell vibe when he got on the stage for CBC News. "Hi, I’m Peter Mansbridge and I come on right after the sports. Tell me, do you like the chairs?"
At the end of the presentation, the TV personalities and journalists were all asked to come on stage to do a group photo with the executives. Most complied, except for the fifth estate’s Linden MacIntyre.
As I passed by MacIntyre outside the studio, I heard him being asked by a publicist if he was going to join the group. He turned and said, "I don’t want to stand out there with that f–kin’ mob; it’s silly."
You have to admire his integrity.
Still, that’s not to take away from the other journalists. I totally understand why this kind of line-blurring between journalism and PR is important. If you don’t promote your show, people don’t watch and then you don’t get to do journalism. It’s a necessary evil.
Fortunately, I had some great conversations with a lot of journalists and executives after the event – though I didn’t get to talk to the elusive Mr. Mansbridge. Despite my best efforts and those of the publicists calling around the building to find him, he was declared "M.I.A."
In other words, Peter Had Left The Building.
Oh well, maybe next year.
About Robert J. Ballantyne
Robert J.Ballantyne is a senior editor at Popjournalism and Creative Director at Artsculture.ca. Previously, he was a journalist at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star.