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Northern Life celebrates its 40th year in business

This week, we mark 40 years of publishing newspapers and magazines in Sudbury. We are older and marginally wiser than we were when we started.

This week, we mark 40 years of publishing newspapers and magazines in Sudbury.

We are older and marginally wiser than we were when we started. We listen more; we are slightly less sure of ourselves than in those intoxicating, chaotic early days of smashing our way into the media mix here in Greater Sudbury. We have endured, struggled, prospered, rethought, expanded, retrenched, redesigned, expanded again and, most importantly, re-invented ourselves constantly to adapt to the tempo and needs of our community.

We are a multimedia business today, but first and foremost, we are a community business.

What stays with us, what never leaves our consciousness, is our sense of community, both in our mind’s eye and in our soul. Perched here on Elgin Street for this long, we have a bird’s-eye view of what goes on in this city, and it remains an inspiration.

In some ways, we have joined the establishment — a thought so utterly foreign to us 40 years ago, we still find it vaguely intimidating. That said, when we started, most media were locally owned and operated by pillars of the community.

People such as Norm Bradley (Northern Cable), Baxter Ricard (CHNO Radio), Bill Plaunt (CKSO-TV and Radio), Conrad Lavigne (from Timmins who started the CBC affiliate), Bill Mason (former owner of The Sudbury Star) and, of course, Jim Meekes, the legendary publisher of the Star who did everything he could to run us out of town.

Today, our competitors have been bought and sold more than a few times and are owned by major media organizations with formulas well known and repeated across the country. In many ways, as media companies become larger and more integrated, they shrink in local footprint. In a small way, we learned that lesson many years ago. In 1990, we owned 30 newspapers across Ontario and began to think we were big time guys. The recession of the early 1990s disabused us of this notion and we soon began again to focus on our roots.

We are fiercely proud of our independence in this time of consolidation.
Sudbury is the victim and the beneficiary of its dependence on the price of commodities. It keeps us all honest. Just when things are flying (remember those nickel bonuses), we get taken down a peg. And just when things look grim, things turn up. It’s automatic. It’s Sudbury.

We are not in the mood to be grey. Yes, we’ve had more inspired local municipal leadership than currently available, and yes, notwithstanding the so-called super cycle in the mining business, the price of commodities have plunged.

What’s changed is the Sudbury of today is equipped to fight back. Our major institutions are well led and the explosion of our mining supply and services industry has moved us away from dependence on commodities alone. This city depends on innovation as much as nickel these days and that is a good thing.

Sudbury has grown up. It is no longer held hostage to the ideologies of Big Labour or Big Capital. The city is comfortable in its own skin. How do we know? We live here.

On our 30th birthday we launched the Community Builders Awards Program — our favourite night of the year. For the past 10 years, we have honoured 80 people who really make this town work. It’s not about the heroes everyone knows; it’s about the unselfish ones who teach, mentor, organize, heal, coach or paint. If you want to be reminded about how special this town is, go to It will warm your heart.

We haven’t been resting on our laurels. In the last 10 years, we launched Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, which is distributed around the world to tell Sudbury’s incredible story. Six years ago, we launched Northern Ontario Medical Journal. That same year, we also launched Sudbury Living magazine (which now includes our Parents, Students and Wedding issues) and, this year, Sudbury Sports magazine was born.

Our events portfolio includes the Northern Ontario Business Awards (NOBA), which is celebrating 27 years of honouring business excellence around the North.

Influential Women of Northern Ontario is celebrating 17 years in 2014; 40 Under Forty will launch its fourth event here in Sudbury next month; and our Sudbury Living brand has launched an annual expo, as well as wedding and family shows.

Our digital properties complement all of our publications with websites, Facebook, Twitter, mobile apps, newsletters and video. We even have our own video production studio here on Elgin Street.

And we’re not done yet!

Our job is to live where you live. To animate our community with a critical and a positive eye.

We’ve decided not to have a big party or run a huge retrospective section on years gone by and chuckle at all those 1973 pictures of long hair and bell bottoms. We simply want to thank you for your support over these 40 years and take quiet satisfaction in having found a way to remain the last independently owned suburban newspaper of its kind in Canada.

We are grateful and as enthused on our 40th birthday as we were on our first day — Sept. 23, 1973 — to serve our community. It just doesn’t get better than this.

Thank YOU
Michael Atkins, Abbas Homayed, Patricia Mills


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