Nunatsiaq News honours longtime editor Jim Bell with memorial bursary
Paper hopes Bell’s dedication to his craft, to the North will inspire future Inuit journalists
Jim Bell’s name will live on in a tribute to his dedication to news, the North and Inuit.
Nunatsiaq News has renamed two bursaries aimed at helping Inuit students become journalists after Bell, a longtime editor of the paper who dedicated his career — and indeed his life — to telling the stories of Nunavut.
Bell died in August 2021, at the age of 69, following a shining career in journalism that began in the early 1980s with Nunatsiaq News.
“In the 50-year history of Nunatsiaq News, Jim Bell became an icon of northern journalism and his name was synonymous with the paper,” said current managing editor Corey Larocque.
In 2020, Nunatsiaq News created two $5,000 bursaries for Inuit students from Nunavut or Nunavik who are studying journalism, communications, or media studies at a college or university.
Earlier this year, they were renamed the Nunatsiaq News – Jim Bell Memorial Bursaries.
The name change occurred, fittingly, as Nunatsiaq News celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2023. The paper got its start in 1973 with the publication of the Inukshuk newsletter, which became Nunatsiaq News in 1976.
“Jim was there, as a witness to history, for some of the most important developments in Nunavut’s history over the past 50 years. Not only did he chronicle the evolution of the new territory, he earned a reputation for covering those developments fearlessly and with high journalistic standards,” Larocque said.
When he died, former colleagues paid tribute to Bell’s reputation for “fierce and fearless” journalism.
Nunatsiaq News partnered with Indspire, the national charity that provides financial support to Inuit, First Nations and Métis students, through its Building Better Futures program.
“It’s fitting that these bursaries be named after Jim because, as Nunatsiaq News looks forward to the next 50 years, the hope is that there will be more Inuit journalists to tell the story of their own people. Those future journalists should be inspired by the work of Jim Bell,” Larocque said.
The bursaries were awarded to two Inuit students from Nunavut in 2021 and to an Inuk student in 2022.
Recipients for the 2022-23 school year will be determined in the spring. Applications for the 2023-24 academic year have deadlines of Aug. 1 and Nov. 1 of this year and Feb. 1, 2024.
Publisher Michael Roberts made the decision to honour Bell by naming the bursaries after him in 2022, about a year after Bell died.
Even while Bell was in the hospital, he would talk to the paper’s management about coming back to work. Maybe not full-time right away, he conceded.
Renaming the bursaries in Bell’s memory is just one of the tributes to Bell that have been made since he died.
The Quebec Community Newspapers Association renamed one of its annual awards in memory of Bell, who was known for his fearless, provocative editorial writing.
QCNA’s award for local editorial writing was renamed the Jim Bell Award for Best Editorial (local affairs) in 2022.
The Nunavut Archives accepted 10 boxes of Bell’s papers, writings, photography and even some poetry as a testament to his role as a chronicler of the territory’s history.
Bell’s friends also created a memorial bench in Iqaluit’s Rotary Park.