Congratulations on a half-century of Nunatsiaq News

Former editor Patricia Lightfoot reminisces about her time at the paper

A raven flies by as former Nunatsiaq News editor Patricia Lightfoot walks to work in March 2018. The Nunatsiaq News office is in the blue building. (Photo by Patricia Lightfoot)

By Patricia Lightfoot
Special to Nunatsiaq News

Congratulations to the publisher and staff of Nunatsiaq News on this impressive anniversary.

It’s the result of many years of hard work by a dedicated team. And I know that, from my tenure a few years ago as managing editor of the paper.

When I started, I was struck by the seemingly chaotic waterfall of emails early each day in which the reporters and editors said what they were working on, might work on or did not want to work on.

The emails all seemed to arrive at once and discussions happened very quickly, sometimes when I was busy with another task. It was like trying to direct an elaborate folk dance that was unfamiliar to me, or a team game with bats and balls and people running in all directions at once.

In time, things got better. I learned more about our reporting area – Nunavut, Nunavik and the southern-based Inuit cities of Ottawa and Montreal – and I gained an understanding of the team’s dynamics. The introduction of weekly team meetings by teleconference, twice-daily check-ins through the Slack app and regularly picking up the phone to chat also helped.

I wrote some stories, I did a lot of editing and setting the direction for the paper, I worked with former web editor John Thompson to train and develop new reporters, and I prepared the weekly print edition, which, when COVID-19 hit, became the e-edition for a time.

I worked on projects, such as the much-needed upgrade to the paper’s website, which as well as being more attractive to readers was more usable for staff. This was a big win for the news team; no more finding that a story had been edited by two people at the same time.

I did myriad administrative tasks: hurrying down to the vehicle licensing office in Iqaluit more than once to buy stickers for the Nunatsiaq vehicles, buying furniture for the staff apartment, and trying, unsuccessfully, to find more staff housing.

I appreciated the work my colleagues did. We all need access to news that isn’t just sound bites or conjecture, and Nunatsiaq News provides that.

One example is the paper’s weekly reporting on city council in Iqaluit. It may seem less glamorous than, say, reporting on a meeting of the Arctic Council in Reykjavik, but decisions made at the municipal level, wherever we live, tend to have a much greater effect on our lives.

In addition to the day-to-day reporting of the news, my colleagues were willing to wade through massive reports to pull out the relevant information that often did not appear in a convenient executive summary.

Government of Nunavut, Employment Opportunities

To my mind, this is really useful information to readers, who will not have the time, energy or background knowledge to do these things. The late Jim Bell was certainly a master at these activities. I imagine few people knew more about the telecom business in Nunavut or the phases of the expansion, both accomplished and desired, of Baffinland’s Mary River iron mine.

Looking back, I recall my colleagues’ excitement when the Nunavut legislature was in session, the sense that now we could really get down to work after the news doldrums of January or summer, and my surprise at how intimate the legislature is; you can sit just a few feet behind the MLAs.

In contrast, I recall being impressed by the imposing size of a polar bear hide stretched on a frame outside a house near to the office; it really gave me a chilling sense of what it might be like to encounter such a beast.

Also, less gloriously on my first visit to Iqaluit, I got locked out of my homestay after an evening at the Legion and had to call one of the reporters, whom I had only recently met, to help me with a keypad that was barely functioning in the cold.

I remember news gathering in action by former reporter Beth Brown in August 2018. She called saying she was running down to the beach, wearing rubber boots and with a handful of cash to pay someone with a boat to take her to see the bowhead whale that had just been harvested in Iqaluit, the first in seven years.

Iqaluit residents work together to help butcher a bowhead whale in August 2018. (File photo)

I enjoyed coffee and baked goods at the Black Heart Café many times, and certainly after the time when I put one of the Nortext cars into the ditch in the parking lot at Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park one spring.

That same day, I recall attending the first Floechella, listening to Riit on the sea ice during Nunavut Music Week in 2019 with newly arrived reporter Emma Tranter.

A related event, which I particularly enjoyed writing about, was CBC radio q’s recording of a show at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, featuring the talents of Riit, The Jerry Cans and Josh Q among others. There is such a depth of artistic talent in the North.

We took the opportunity at the paper to highlight the talents of Nunavummiut in various fields in our special issue in 2019 to mark Nunavut’s 20th anniversary.

I’m still proud of this project, which I feel was very much a celebration of the territory. The issue featured a stellar array of contributors who shared their thoughts and knowledge about such diverse topics as the need for self-determination, the economy, the education system and the arts.

Nunavut is blessed with both natural beauty and great photographers, some of whose work illustrated the issue, prominent among which was the cover photo by David Kilabuk of children taking selfies on Mount Duval in Pangnirtung, with the fjord and Auyuittuq National Park behind them. Our in-house design team of Andrea Gray and Krista Klassen wrapped all the elements together in a beautiful layout.

I thank the publisher, Michael Roberts, for an extraordinary opportunity that turned my world upside down in the best possible way, and I thank my colleagues for their kindness and their support of an editor new to the Arctic.

I wish Nunatsiaq News many more busy and productive years!

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Chesley S. on

    NN has a trying under appreciated essential job. JB I recall in answer to a disgruntled reader’s view advised that the person open their own newspaper… Take care and keep on keeping on NN.

    • Posted by Sad state of decline on

      JB was a different kind of editor though. One who wrote interesting and informed editorials for starters. When was the last time we saw anything like that? We now go months between, and rarely worth the wait.

      • Posted by Mr. Hyde on

        Corey runs a tight ship. Things are consistent and mostly functional. Of course people are never quite.content with it.

        This is a small outfit that doesn’t always have time, resources or connections in smaller communities to report more informed, robust stories.

        Unavoidably news repeats GN communications (does every email get corrected now? What happened folks?). Good, and timely research might be next to impossible most communities.

        They do write some good and well discussed pieces. Those won’t always align with the interests of every reader.

        Give them some credit. News organizations are closing all over, and this one is hanging on. It clearly has our attention.


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