Ian Hanomansing Potential CBC big news chair heir
Thirty years ago, a Halifax TV producer told Ian Hanomansing a harsh truth:
“I’m going to put you on the air,” he told the then-rookie news reader. “For the first 30 seconds, no one is going to pay attention to what you say.”
“He was right,” says the Trinidad and Tobago native. “In Halifax, in 1986, for a guy who looked like me to be on the air -- I’m sure was probably a pretty shocking thing.”
Hanomansing was born outside Canada but grew up in the little town of Sackville, New Brunswick, population about 3,500 people. His brown skin made him stand out in what was then a predominantly white community. While he got used to being different, he learned the hard way that race and colour would be a factor in his chosen career.
And not just in rural Canada. “I know when I was in Toronto the first few times, filling in on The National, they got angry calls from people saying, ‘Who’s this guy?’”
Sometimes it went the other way, he says. “The first job I got in Vancouver, the regional director said, ‘Look outside – we need to reflect that.’” Hanomansing thought he had earned the job thanks to his academic skills and his experience. “It didn’t feel positive to me that you’re seeing a guy with a brown face.”
In early days, on radio, Hanomansing had a brief but similar identity crisis over his name. Days out of high school, he was on the air in Amherst, Nova Scotia. He went two days using his middle name – as Ian Harvey – before switching back to Hanomansing.
The reason he switched back, as he once told George Stroumboulopoulos, was that a girl he knew told him she heard a guy who sounded like him on the radio but that he had a different name. “What’s the point of being in the business,” he thought, “if she doesn’t know that I’m on the radio?”
Flash forward all these years later, and Hanomansing is known and respected across Canada. Twenty-six years ago, he moved to Vancouver and raised a family. Over a 30-year TV news career, he’s worked pretty much every anchor job there is at CBC, including his current gig as host of CBC News Network with Ian Hanomansing. That job won him the most recent Canadian Screen Award as Canada’s top national news anchor.
Over the years, Hanomansing has also been a frequent back-up anchor on The National, contributing to the main CBC newscast even before Mansbridge’s long run, back when Knowlton Nash was in the big chair.
“I’ve lived through lots of changes at my time at CBC,” he says, “some incremental, some seismic.” He survived, for example, the disastrous “Prime Time News” shift to 9 p.m. in the early ‘90s as well as the downsizing of the local supper hour newscasts in the 2000s.
No surprise, then, that Hanomansing’s name comes immediately to mind when it comes to talk of who will succeed Mansbridge when the 68-year-old anchor steps away from The National following the Canada 150 coverage next July 1st.
It certainly was no surprise to Mansbridge, who messaged Hanomansing just before he broke the news that he would be
“He sent me a very nice email,” says Hanomansing.
Interviewed shortly after that announcement, Hanomansing was loath to speculate on his chances of moving up to CBC’s top
“I look at the succession of some of the American networks and CTV,” he suggested at the time. “There were either clear heir apparents or few heir apparents. At CBC there’re no heir apparents but there is certainly quite a bit of bench strength.”
Besides, he says, “This business is filled with people who really were so focused on what they wanted next.” Hanomansing sees no upside in “putting all your focus in something you really have no control over. The only thing I have control over is the job I continue to do.”
That being said, Hanomansing is very interested in hearing CBC’s plan for their newscast post-Mansbridge. The National has traditionally been based in Toronto. Despite attempts made by other broadcasters, notably Global, to base their national news in Vancouver, Hanomansing doesn’t see that happening with CBC.
Leaving his East Van neighbourhood has been a deal breaker for Hanomansing in the past. His wife Nancy has enjoyed a law career in the city and “was not easily mobile,” he says. The couple was also anxious to create some stability for their two sons throughout their elementary and high school years.
Other news organizations, in the U.S. and Canada, have tried wooing Hanomansing away from CBC and Vancouver. “My answer was always the same,” he says of outside job offers. “I was flattered to talk a couple of times but I knew I wasn’t going to take the job.”
Both sons, however, have graduated high school and so “we are mobile now,” says Hanomansing. He’d move to Toronto and be the new Mansbridge if the job was the right fit, he says.
The big unknown is how much CBC might want to shake up their flagship newscast. Hanomansing has also really enjoyed his last four years on CBC News Network, shaking loose from the Teleprompter and hosting more of a magazine show that is a little more experimental and cutting edge.
“We take chances on lighter stories,” he says, citing a visit with magicians Penn & Teller where he was the butt of one of their jokes.
Hanomansing has laughed along with the parodies This Hour Has 22 Minutes has aimed his way over the years, particularly at the hands of comedian and fellow East Coaster Shaun Majumder. That won’t end if CBC offers – and Hanomansing accepts – the chief anchor job at The National. He’ll probably, in fact, be parodied
Whatever his future holds, at 55, Hanomansing is ready to take things in stride.
“They’ve asked me for years, ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years?’” he says of his CBC bosses. “I always tell them, ‘I don’t know. I love what I’m doing now.’”