Longtime Nunatsiaq News editor Jim Bell dead at 69

‘Jim was fiercely dedicated to Nunavut and the North,’ says Nunavut premier

Jim Bell pictured in his hometown of Iqaluit in 2012. Bell died on Aug. 24. (Photo courtesy of Lynda Gunn)

By Sarah Rogers

Nunatsiaq News is mourning the loss of its longtime former editor, Jim Bell, who died of cancer Tuesday evening in Ottawa. He was 69.

Over his 34-year career with Nunatsiaq News, Bell played a key role in shaping the newspaper’s news and editorial coverage and how it engaged its readership. He trained dozens of new journalists and leaves a clear mark on political discourse in the Canadian Arctic and northern journalism.

“Jim Bell was an authentic and genuine journalist and editor,” Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq wrote in an email.

“His pieces were researched, passionate and always authentically him. Jim was fiercely dedicated to Nunavut and the North and fought hard to create a strong media presence for our territory. He will be missed. I admired his dedication to his profession.”

Nunatsiaq News publisher Michael Roberts described Bell as “the driving journalistic voice” of the paper.

“His analytic skills and intimate knowledge of all things Arctic guided the newsroom for four decades. Jim’s editorials were a guiding light, with his uncanny ability to boil the most complex subjects down to clear words, artfully written in a precise logical flow.

“Jim was an icon of northern journalism, a friend and colleague,” Roberts added. “He will be sorely missed.”

Bell was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1952. As a child, his family relocated to Canada, where he was raised in Ontario.

He moved to Iqaluit — then Frobisher Bay — in the late 1970s. He was hired at Nunatsiaq News in the early 1980s, first as an ad salesperson.

He later went on to work as a reporter for the newspaper, before taking the helm as its editor, a role he held in different capacities until earlier this year.

During his career, Bell picked up many awards for his journalism and editorial writing from both the Canadian Community Newspapers Awards and the Quebec Community Newspapers Association, including its prestigious Paul Dumont-Frenette award for outstanding journalism in 2004.

In 2012, Bell was awarded the Governor General’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions to journalism across the North.

Bell might be best known for his opinions, which appeared regularly in his insightful editorials.

“I know his editorial views were carefully noted in Ottawa as well as in the North, and he commanded wide respect due to the quality of his work and his writing skills,” said Senator Dennis Patterson in a written tribute.

“Jim was a pivotal influence on me and other leaders in Nunavut. I believe Jim was driven by a public-spirited duty to speak out, in measured credible tones, about sensitive subjects that needed to be considered thoughtfully and reasonably in sometimes highly charged emotive situations.

“An independent and inquiring press — willing to ask the difficult questions — is a fundamental pillar of a healthy democracy. Jim provided that sober, thoughtful comment required on important public issues.”

Jim leaves behind his younger brother Iain and his wider family — a network of journalists and friends in Iqaluit, Ottawa, across Canada and the circumpolar world.

—with files from Lisa Gregoire

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    very sad to hear, Rest In Peace Good Sir.

    condolences to your Family.

  2. Posted by Very Sad on

    Very sad news to hear today! Sending my condolences to his family, friends, and the team at Nunatsiaq News. Nunavut will miss you Jim!!!

    • Posted by Terry Dobbin on

      Nunavut as lost a great writer and a long time Nunavummiut who made so many contributions to this Territory. Jim set the journalism bar really high and was highly respected for the quality of his work. You’ve set a standard in journalism that hopefully will continue!

  3. Posted by No Moniker on

    Sorry to hear this news. Tons of respect to Jim for his great journalism, and especially his fearsome editorials, they have been very much missed. Rest in peace, Mr. Bell.

  4. Posted by North Baffiner on

    Aitta my friend, R.I.P James Bell. I enjoyed being one of your acquaintances, starting in 1980/81 when I first did hand written translations for Nunatsiaq News attending high school whilst staying at Ukkivik Residence.

    I also enjoyed getting to know you better when I returned from university and became a social worker in Frobisher Bay, and where we had some long discussions about Inuit, the impacts of Scottish people on northern towns and of our shared dislike for dictatorial politics/organizations that would not admit their mistakes.

    I also was both a fan and sometimes critic of your editorials, although I recall doing several editorials when negotiating the land claim and doing some educational diatribes on the new arrivals who looked down on us northerners. I am saddened by this news as I have lost another fine and passionately opinionated friend. There won’t be another like you Jim.

  5. Posted by Peter Ivalu on

    So sad to hear. My condolences to his family.
    Jim was a brilliant writer and his editorials top-notch. I sincerely hope NN will continue the professionalism and respect Mr. Bell shown throughout the years.
    You will be greatly missed. Rest in peace. ?

  6. Posted by Manitok Thompson on

    May you rest now, Jim. You have done your job well serving Inuit and Nunavut.
    You were one of the driving force to shape Nunavut’s political environment. You cared as a journalist and it showed in your well researched articles. We will always remember your contribution to our Territory.
    It was an honour to be one of your friends.

  7. Posted by Sad and small on

    Imagine being so sad and unhappy with your life that you gain some kind of satisfaction from coming to the comments section to give a thumbs down to people offering tributes to a person they respect who has passed on.

    • Posted by Opinionated on

      Imagine a world where people are allowed to dislike things, including people? He attacked a lot of people in news articles and targeted certain companies that he disliked for no valid reason other then he didn’t like them.

  8. Posted by Al Saunders on

    So sorry to hear the news. Jim was nothing if not tenacious…didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but he really knew his stuff.

  9. Posted by Victor on

    Still disgusted he allowed a “guest editorial” that proceeded the destruction of AMI.

  10. Posted by Lynda Gunn on

    My sincere condolences to Jim’s family and friends. I have trusted Jim’s ability to tell it like it was and it was easy to be plainly honest with him in conveying my feelings on a subject. He was a fellow community member not just of Iqaluit but of Nunavut as well. You could tell that he had a deep affection and love for both. Rest in Peace Jim. You shall be sadly missed by many.

  11. Posted by Please Consider on

    People don’t really rest in peace, this is only a phrase we use to give ourselves, the living, peace. In reality when we pass away we cease to exist… so, please share all your affection, fondness and respect to those in your life while they are still with you, when they die they can not see or hear these messages or any prayers or thoughts of love you feel you are sending them. They will not be able to hear you anymore. So, tell them now.

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