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Gentili: A pandemic, a major change and a new horizon

Getting back in the saddle
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So, how’s your pandemic going? Here at Sudbury.com, the first half of 2020 has been … eventful. That’s probably the best way to put it.

We’re still here, we’re still going strong and our commitment to covering the life and times of this thing we call the Nickel City has never been stronger.

It’s been months since I sat down to write a column. My plan is to get back into the swing of regularly commenting on news and events, locally and beyond, from now on. (I almost wrote “going forward,” a phrase I kind of detest. Had to slap my own hand.) I’m a little rusty though, so bear with me.

Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic is an all-consuming beast that has impacted every aspect of life, including life at Sudbury.com.

But the year didn’t begin with that. No, the year began with a major change in our business. As many of you know, after 47 years, Michael Atkins, the man who built Laurentian Publishing into a giant of independent northern media, decided to take a much-deserved rest.

This decision meant huge changes for those of us at 158 Elgin, his seat of operations for decades. We said goodbye to most Laurentian publications, including Sudbury Living magazine, our mining and medical journals, and, of course, Northern Life, the community newspaper that served Greater Sudbury for 47 years.

That was hard. It was hard to say goodbye to our publications and it was hard to say goodbye to the many staff whose hard work and talents made us successful. 

There was definitely something special about Laurentian Publishing. It felt good to work for a Northern Ontario company, telling Northern Ontario stories to a Northern Ontario audience. We played a role in the continued development of this sometimes forgotten region of the province, and we played a role defending the interests of the North and its people. We are extremely proud of that legacy.

Fortunately, that legacy can continue, at least in part. Laurentian Publishing and many of its products might be gone, but two of its publications — Sudbury.com and NorthernOntarioBusiness.com — found a new home with Village Media.

Village is a northern firm (based out of Sault Ste. Marie) and it’s owned by a northerner (a fellow named Jeff Elgie). Like Laurentian Publishing, Village Media was born to tell northern stories to northern readers, but to do it digitally, online, with no printed product.

Village Media news websites are in every major northern city, and have now spilled outside the borders of the North, bringing local news coverage to smaller towns and cities that have been left hanging as the traditional business model newspapers operated under for more than a century basically imploded. Communities that lost their newspaper have gained a news website.

Village is kind of like Laurentian Publishing for the 21st century, with a similar mission and similar goals.

This change in ownership also means the team of reporters for Sudbury.com and NorthernOntarioBusiness.com has been preserved. When you visit Sudbury.com, you’ll see bylines you recognize. If you buy advertising from us, you’ll recognize the names of our advertising reps and our office manager. Abbas Homayed, who was the publisher of Sudbury.com and NorthernOntarioBusiness.com, continues to lead our team.

We’ve actually added two reporters, familiar bylines as well, but in new roles. We decided to take advantage of the Local Journalism Initiative program, a federal government initiative that uses public money to support local journalism. Len Gillis, who was the final editor of our mining and medical journals, has been brought on as our Northern Ontario health reporter. Keira Ferguson, who started with us as a new media reporter, has been brought on to cover our new Communities beat, which tells stories from the immigrant, Indigenous and Francophone communities.

I continue in my role as editor, though my old title of managing editor has been replaced with a new one: community editor. If you have an issue with our coverage or have a story you think needs to be told, I’m still the guy to talk to.

The changeover has been so seamless I would be surprised if anyone notices anything different.

That this changeover happened in the midst of a pandemic was challenging to say the least. But we’re a northern business; we’re no stranger to challenges.

And despite those changes and challenges, our mission at Sudbury.com and at NorthernOntarioBusiness.com remains the same: to tell your stories, to tell stories that inform and challenge and entertain, to chronicle the life and times of this unique corner of Northern Ontario.

Mark Gentili is the community editor for Sudbury.com.




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