An intern’s-eye-view of CBC headquarters

2011 Joan Donaldson scholarship recipients. From left to right: Adam Avrashi, Najat Abdalhadi, Giselle Dookhie, Sol Israel, Alana Bergstrom, Lily Boisson, Fabiola Carletti, Sachin Seth

Okay, we’re not technically interns. We’re Joan Donaldson scholarship recipients on contract for the summer – but who has time to say all that?

Either way: I’m freshly-graduated, and I have a lot riding on this summer stint. Who knows – maybe I’ll find my own nook in this cross-country, bilingual, multimedia institution.

For now, I’m routinely getting lost in the CBC’s Toronto headquarters – a 10 story, 160,000 square metre behemoth.

If you’re curious about what it’s actually like in Willy Wonka’s media factory, I’ll start you off with a fun list of observations in no particular order.

(Disclaimer: I’m not saying these are the most important things about the inner-workings of the Ceeb, but they are things that rookies write home about)

1) You have to become an expert at the elevator colour scheme

Staff orient themselves by referring to elevator colours. (Ex: “Visual Resources is now on the 8th floor, blue elevators.”) Seems simple enough, right?

Well, sometimes they’re talking about the colour of the elevator doors and sometimes the walls by the elevator. Some elevators don’t go to certain floors, and they’re not all primary colours. God help you if you confuse the red and burgundy elevators. There’s also a gigantic lift affectionately known as “the big green monster.” The largest elevators can hold entire movie sets and enormous animals. (I’m going somewhere with that last one …)

2) When reporters share a building with entertainment media, things can get a little wild. 

Our internship coordinator told us some pretty unbelievable stories while showing us around. He pointed out the heavy-duty red elevators and explained that they’ve lifted, among other things, a lion on its way up to the 10th floor television studios. (Or was it a tiger?)

Anyway, the doors opened prematurely on the 4th floor (which is where the news team works) and the lion/tiger escaped from its handler. Story goes that the beast jumped on top of an unlucky journalist’s desk and proceeded to urinate all over everything.

How’s that for a piss off?

3) You may bump into a mail delivery robot 

Okay, the robot doesn’t have a face or an endearing personality, but it does make its own way through the labyrinthine corridors of the building – which is more than I can do. The droid makes a soft beeping sound and apparently knows where to go because of an invisible path sprayed on the carpets. I heard it stops if you get in its way, but I won’t risk my neck testing that theory.

Here’s video evidence from someone as easily excited:

4) The jokers have made  their mark  

Pay attention and you’ll see evidence of the staff’s sense of humour. Sure, there are the goofy blog posts, funny signs (“No Coffee, No Workee”) and random stickers (the Smoke’s Poutinerie face is everywhere!) … but there are also some craftier jesters among the masses.

On the fourth floor blue elevators, you may notice a shot of Peter Mansbridge looking out into the crowd (See picture below, left side).

Upon closer inspection, you’ll see my favourite guy ever.

Left: wideshot of the Mansbridge elevator. Right: not just another face in the crowd

Whoever inserted this into the crowd took the time to figure out the proportions and go black and white to blend in. I don’t even know how I spotted him!

Some other interns and I were guessing who this guy might be. Perhaps he’s a former employee who vowed to keep an eye on the news team? A CTV reporter who snuck into the building? Peter’s estranged son?

(If you recognize this man, seriously, help me out here.)

We also joked about adding Mansbridge himself into the audience. How meta would that be?

5) Radio people seldom look like they sound, and television personalities are often shorter than they seem. 

These are generalizations I can get behind. Take for instance “the voice” that introduces The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti. He’s an extremely tall Gothic guy with long hair. (He sounded like a stubby older man in suspenders to me!)

“The talent” (on-air radio and television personalities) are everywhere, and they’re easier to spot thanks to flashy in-house marketing. You know you’ve made it at the CBC when they’ve blown you up and put you on the walls, pillars, and — of course — the elevators.

It’s always slightly bewildering to see larger-than-life figures in, well, real life.

So far David Suzuki has walked by me in a huff; I almost collided with Jian Ghomeshi as he powered past me on his cell phone; and I’ve directly experienced Strombo’s “your boyfriend George” smile. I’ve also been in the bathroom with Spark’s Nora Young and in the coffee lineup behind Metro Morning’s Matt Galloway.

It may be lame, but I always get a little giddy about these encounters.

One intern described seeing Peter Mansbridge’s image on an elevator, which then split to reveal the real Peter Mansbridge.

Just another day at the CBC, I suppose!



3 thoughts on “An intern’s-eye-view of CBC headquarters

  1. Hey! I’m the guy that put the pic on the elevator door. Glad to read you thought it was that clever. If you wanna know the reason being, besides being a serial smart ass was just cuz i had a spare Passport photo and they had just finished putting up photos of our colleagues in the field. So i thought i deserved one too. LOL!

    • Dammit, Rob! You beat me to it. I was going to update this post and say that I’d discovered who you were.
      I just did a lot of “do you know this man?” and got the answer in three short steps:

      Someone told me “that’s a camera guy,” someone else “His name is Rob” and finally Sue Goodspeed gave me the details – your full name, the fact that you’re on paternity leave, and the AMAZING fact that you put this up two years ago! I can’t believe it’s still there!

      Good on ya.

  2. Pingback: Thoughts on the Joan Donaldson CBC News Scholarship | The Fab Files

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