George Stroumboulopoulos is a popular guy.
Aside from helming the hit CBC Newsworld show The Hour, which will be moving to the main network following The National in the fall, he’s got a lot of fans inside the CBC as well.
At the 2006-2007 Season Preview, Stroumboulopoulos was one of the most requested interviews and when it was our turn in the queue, he was delayed slightly as he had to converse with a colleague and then as we headed in to the interview room, he got an approving shout out from CBC Sports’ Scott Russell from the opposite end of the hallway.
So what is it about Stroumb – oh, let’s call him George, it’s shorter – that makes him so admired? Well, for a rising TV news star, he’s refreshingly devoid of ego and has always been willing to interrupt his busy schedule to give Popjournalism some interview time (plug: our full interview feature with George will be in the upcoming magazine available July 26). We also have yet to find anyone willing to speak badly of him in this gossip-mongering industry. Best of all, he’s got a supportive mentor in National anchor Peter Mansbridge – who often makes appearances on The Hour.
“My experience is very rare in TV,” admits George. “Everyone here has been really supportive and Heaton Dyer, the head of CBC Newsworld, has lived up to his word and beyond, actually.”
One of the aforementioned promises made to George in 2004, when he chose to leave MuchMusic to join the CBC, was a guarantee of two years for the show to grow. Fortunately, that ended up being a just-in-case clause as The Hour has had little trouble grabbing viewers since its launch.
Still, one other important factor in George’s move was that he would be allowed to remain himself – frank attitude, trademark black T-shirt wardrobe and parent-irritating piercings included.
“When I first came over here, I was told, we don’t want you to change – and to be honest, I wouldn’t have come here if they wanted me to,” he says. “I may look different than most people on TV, at least to people maybe 55 years or older, but I have fans that are 80 years old and write to me, too. I mean, everyone has their own preference, so if I’m not the kind of person you want to get your news from, that’s fair. But I believe what you say is more important than how you look.”
And it’s what George says that makes The Hour stand out from the suit-and-desk crowd. Take, for example, the show he did on 06/06/06 about the evil superstitions surrounding the number “666.”
“People told me, ‘You can’t do a 666 show on Newsworld!’” he laughs. “Our interview segment about the Church of Satan was interesting, too, especially when I found out that they didn’t believe in the devil… they consider themselves atheists – they’re extreme atheists – but atheists all the same.”
George is also not shy about sharing his opinion on The Hour. It’s a quirk that makes him hard to categorize. Is he a capital “J” journalist or a pundit? Or something in between?
“I would describe myself as a presenter,” he says. “When I started at the CBC, I was told that I could either be a commentator, an anchor or a journalist. I said, ‘Can’t I be all of them?’ And I was told, ‘No, you have to choose one.’ I told them I couldn’t and it ended up that I was allowed to called be a presenter.
“As a presenter, I introduce every story with an appropriate filter. I don’t necessarily offer my opinion, but a point of view. All of the political parties are upset with me because I don’t affiliate with any of them. If I do have a bias it’s that I’m a citizen who spends money on taxes and wants the most from that.”
Still, now that George’s show is a success and faces the increased pressures of a move to the main CBC network, his already loaded schedule is going to get much more hectic. Let’s hope in between his travels that he schedules some time to eat and sleep properly, too. In particular, George’s friend and former Hour colleague, Entertainment Tonight Canada’s Kim D’Eon, asked us to bring up his fast-food eating habits up in our interview.
“Yeah, Kim was always on about things like that. I’ll admit that I don’t sleep or eat very well. You know, it’s funny. I was with the Stone Temple Pilots for MuchMusic while they were doing a show in Austin, Texas. I went to visit [lead singer] Scott [Weiland] and he had this huge plate of pasta. I looked behind him and they had a traveling chef with them. How cool was that?”
Maybe the CBC can help George out in this area by getting him a traveling chef, too.
“I wish, man,” he says, “But we’re a public broadcaster, you know.”
Oh well. It looks like, despite his success, George will have to live with his food court cuisine for the time being.
How uncool is that?
About the Author
Robert Ballantyne is Popjournalism's Editor-in-Chief. Previously, he was a producer 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 and other media outlets. In addition to leading the Popjournalism team of writers, he built and designed its website.