News is an integral part of the fabric of any society. In the remote North – as with many parts of the world – the main source of news would have been word of mouth so that local news would have been the only news of importance – what were the ice conditions like; where were the animals to be hunted; who had died, given birth or got married; who needed help with something – the stuff of everyday life around you. News of some events became stories, to be passed down through the oral tradition as a lasting record. News from further abroad would have been far less consequential coming months, even years, later.
Then came the permanent settlements and with them the modern methods of news dissemination – radio, newspapers, television and now the internet. Like many other things the North lagged significantly behind because of its remoteness – radio services and telephones only came in the early 1960s, newspapers and television in the 1970s, and the Internet in 2005. In the early days radio and television were dominated by programming from mainstream Canada and the USA and even though great strides have been made in local Nunavut content the “outside” programming still dominates.
Like so many other parts of the world now, TV tends to dominate all forms of media and even the most modest homes will have a TV set – sadly often tuned to news stations bringing the non-stop barrage of sound-bite world news into the homes. The younger generations live on the “news” dished out by social media to the extent that they don’t really know – or care – about the real news of what is going on their community.
Amazingly the lowly newspaper still finds an audience in the North – I think because the older generations still appreciate taking time to read about the events and happenings that are reported about the communities throughout the Canadian Arctic. There are two weekly papers that are printed and distributed – Nunatsiaq News which started in 1973 in Iqaluit so has a strong Eastern Arctic flavour whilst the Northern News Service – Nunavut News/North – started in 1972 in Yellowknife and therefore has a more Western Arctic influence. Both have a strong online platform where most of the same content is published so I have to wonder how long their printed circulation will last.
I have been enjoying the weekly copy of Nunavut News/North with is very parochial reporting – sometimes amusing in its simplicity but always very topical and an infinite source of reference material – and new ideas – for my Arctic Adventure stories. I plan to share some highlights of the news with you every week as it such a part of my experience up here.
Cambridge Bay had the headlines – and several pages inside – this week in reports on Operation Nunaluvit and the community event which I wrote about before. The other headline – City Votes for Alcohol – was a report on the recent plebiscite in the Nunavut capital, Iqaluit, where the government is deliberating on the call for a liquor store to be opened there. (See my previous story about the convoluted liquor regulations in the territory.) Other topics of interest included environmental waste, the ongoing housing shortage, the Arctic Council, a photo spread about traditional Inuit doll-making and an Inuit superhero called Aurora Borealis. As is said, I’ll be sure to be writing more about some of these myself !
And to round out this topic – it still amazes me that I can sit here at a kitchen table in Cambridge Bay writing my stories and photos (which I may have taken only minutes earlier) to share instantly with literally the rest of the (connected) world. A far cry from the typewriter and waiting days for a pile of photos to be printed …..