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Ian Hanomansing hosts the only program of its kind in the country, the new hour-long show CBC News Now, airing live from Vancouver
Ian Hanomansing is hosting CBC News Now, live from Vancouver
A few months ago, Ian Hanomansing returned to his hometown of Sackville, New Brunswick. He looked up a debating club meeting at his old university, and decided to check it out.
“It was awkward for everybody,” reflects the veteran CBC reporter and news anchor, recalling the occasion on a summer afternoon out on the CBC Plaza in Vancouver. “It was awkward for me, and I think they were wondering what the heck I was doing there.”
But the nostalgic visit took him back to some formative afternoons on debating teams during his high school and university years. More so than obtaining the law degree, perhaps even more than listening to American radio stations as a kid, Hanomansing believes it was his early debating experience that set him on his current course in the news business.
“You’re sitting in a small room with a team that’s trying to make you fail with judges who are not professional judges, they’re just people hauled into this university room on a Saturday, and you have to find a way to grab them and explain what you’re talking about.”
Hanomansing will need to grab people three times nightly now that CBC News Now has launched on the CBC News Network. The only program of its kind in the country, the new hour-long show airs live from Vancouver, Hanomansing’s adopted hometown.
“It’s a big step forward in terms of network news coverage in Western Canada,” explains Hanomansing. The program broadcasts three times a night, at 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Pacific time, and it will cover news stories that, in most cases, otherwise wouldn’t get coverage until the following morning.
“You have Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary — three of the six biggest cities in the country are in the Pacific and Mountain time zones, and we still have things very much in motion here at five o’clock, six o’clock Pacific time,” says Hanomansing.
“Traditionally, that comes way too late for Eastern-based shows. You hear it in sports, where people will talk about how the Sedins are leaving their magic on the ice, but most of the population out East doesn’t see it because the sportscasts are done by the time Vancouver is still on the ice. It happens in sports, it happens in news.
“It’s huge for us here,” adds Hanomansing, “and for the audience in the Eastern half because they’ll see coverage from out of here they wouldn’t normally see.”
Will the program change the way Canadians get their news, or even how different parts of the country relate to each other? That’s a tall order. But the trusted news anchor is the perfect candidate for the job.
Hanomansing grew up in New Brunswick, where he developed an interest in broadcasting from listening to radio stations from New York and Boston. “I listened to a lot of radio call-in shows and I remember thinking that is pretty interesting, I would love to do that,” he recalls.
“You listen to a guy like [local radio talk-show host] Bill Good now, he embodies all the best things of that job. Maybe I would have moved towards that.”
When his family installed cable TV in their home, Hanomansing then found himself watching the late ABC’s World News Tonight anchor (and fellow Canadian) Peter Jennings.
“I remember being absolutely fascinated by him, and how he did as an anchor and how he covered big stories,” says Hanomansing. “And in the early ’80s, there was a series of big international stories, like the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan and the Pope, and a few other big stories where I would instantly flip to ABC and watch Peter Jennings. That really inspired me to want to be in the television news business.”
The fact that the name “Hanomansing” was a world apart from the Anglo “Jennings” didn’t deter him.
“There were never faces like mine on the air when I was growing up, but it never occurred to me I couldn’t do it,” says Hanomansing. “I wondered a little bit about what would happen when I applied for a job.”
After receiving a law degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Hanomansing worked in various small-town East Coast radio stations before landing a CBC gig in 1986. But along the way, no one ever suggested he change his name, despite the trend at the time of on-air announcers using two first names.
“We used to joke about how there was a real obsession at a lot of stations, where everybody had two first names, and that was expected in radio.”
In 1988, he moved across the country to work on the CBC Vancouver news, stepping up to the national bureau the following year, before taking on hosting and reporting duties in 1995 for CBC’s Pacific Rim Report (which was later replaced by Foreign Assignment). But, he says, he wasn’t tempted by the lure of the anchor desk.
“Once I graduated from university in my mid-20s, I had some opportunities to be a full-time anchor,” says Hanomansing. “But I always resisted them because I wanted to be a reporter.”
It wasn’t until 2000, when CBC created Canada Now, that he reconsidered.
“The idea of this show, being in Vancouver, at a time when my kids were four and seven years old, it just seemed like everything was coming together. But I’ve always felt like a reporter first.”
From 2000 to 2007 he anchored the national segment of the now-defunct hour-long evening newscast. Immediately following Canada Now’s cancellation, he turned to co-anchoring (with Gloria Macarenko) the suppertime CBC News: Vancouver, earning himself the 2008 Gemini Award for Best Anchor (beating out fellow TV news veterans Kevin Newman and Peter Mansbridge). But in 2010, he stepped away from his anchoring duties and returned to The National as a reporter.
While Hanomansing has crossed over to the other side of the desk, he still considers himself very much a reporter, a job he’ll continue to perform at CBC News Now, as well as on The National.
So, what can we expect to see on his new show? Rather than follow the typical news/weather/sports format, Hanomansing says he believes it will focus more on breaking news and news-of-the-day. Weather and sports, including coverage of Hanomansing’s beloved hockey, will be covered when they’re newsworthy.
Currently, no other live Canadian nightly hour-long national news program broadcasts in the time slots of the upcoming CBC News Now — but that doesn’t mean the show won’t face competition. The real challenge for CBC will be the myriad other TV choices that viewers can enjoy.
“It’s one thing to be up against these expensive primetime dramas or comedies,” says Hanomansing, “but the tougher thing for those of us in television is the fact you have all of the TV shows, whether they’re on HGTV or the Food Network or History Television. That’s what we’re up against.”
Even Hanomansing admits he isn’t immune from all those TV temptations. One of his current favourite shows is Pawn Stars, about a family in Las Vegas that runs a pawn shop. “I’m not a collector at all, but I do find the show very easy to watch,” said Hanomansing. “It really is like Antiques Roadshow. There’s something about Pawn Stars I really like. But talk to me in six months and it’ll probably be a different guilty pleasure.”
He’s also a fan of hit ABC sitcom Modern Family and (naturally) the HBO drama The Newsroom.
His non-TV pursuits include spending time with his wife and their two teenage boys, and even designing board games. Hanomansing and a partner produced the NHL-sanctioned Big League Manager and have designed several other hockey-related board games. His sons, alas, are more interested in video games.
“My younger son just bought our third video-game platform. That’s taken a lot of time that, in the past, people would have spent playing board games. But there is something about sitting around a table and three or four people interacting, playing a game, that you can’t replicate.”
One project Hanomansing says he’d like to tackle, now that his kids are older and he has more time and a relatively high profile, is to help launch a debating tournament.
“I think it’s a good activity,” says Hanomansing. “Debating taught me a lot in terms of analyzing issues quickly, being able to organize them, and then also the communication skills involved.”
In fact, only once during our conversation does he become a wee bit flustered and show any difficulty expressing himself. That’s when he’s asked about his nickname.
“It’s weird,” says Hanomansing. “As I say, it’s true — I mean, what’s true is, TV is lighting and makeup and the setting, and all that sort of stuff makes you look the best you can possibly look. It’s an embarrassing . . . those are people who only see me on TV, I guess is what I’m saying.”
So his wife doesn’t call him “Ian Handsome Man Thing”?
Positively not, responds Hanomansing.
Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.