Somewhere between 100,000 and 120,000 hours I figure, give or take how much time you count for writing, rewriting, ripping up and generally suffering through writing a column for 39 years. It never really gets any easier.
The reason I had nothing better to do is that I broke my foot and had propped myself up in bed for a few days to cool the swelling.
The mind does strange things after watching the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in its entirety. I don’t know how Peter Mansbridge does it.
The other reason I was counting hours of work is that I am not alone. We have many fellow travellers at Northern Life/Northern Ontario Business who have worked with us for many, many years and we had decided to properly recognize them.
As a result, a few days later I was in the backseat of my car for the first time in my life (foot still up) on the way to Respect is Burning, a Sudbury restaurant.
When I first saw the name some years ago I thought it might be some kind of religious revival place. I mean if you didn’t live in Sudbury and told someone you were going to “Respect is Burning,” what might they think? But I digress.
My chauffeur Jim Annan, an altogether too-cheerful fellow who spends his time golfing and trading stocks, was in the front seat explaining to Norm Tollinsky (one of the first editors of Northern Life newspaper and Northern Ontario Business) how to make money in the stock market.
This seemed to be news to him. He was mesmerized by the concept of buy low, sell high and don’t hold, which is not what all those mutual funds keep telling us.
I hope Norm still has something of his RRSPs the next time I see him. We are both going to need them soon.
Anyway, we were on our way to celebrate the contribution of our staff to the success of our company in northern Ontario.
It is really quite astounding. More than 40 per cent of our staff have been with us more than 10 years, two folks for more than 30 years, three for more than 25 years, nine for more than 20 years, and three for more than 15 years.
I find myself humbled to realize I have grown older together with a number of people who “remember when.” Remember when we nearly went bankrupt? Remember when the town was on strike 30 years ago when it nearly killed us and changed the community forever? Remember the first years of regional government?
Remember when local media competitors were local? Remember when the very idea of Northern Ontario Business was preposterous?
Who could have imagined that some of us would spend our working lives together doing stuff that brings us pleasure, puts food on the table and is somehow sustainable? Not me.
I’m very proud of these people. The media is fun but it is not easy. The old skills require the logistical dexterity and discipline to get 50,000 newspapers on your front door somehow in time to read on the same day you print it.
A miracle, really. The new skills require instant news and multimedia capabilities. We are really a television, radio, newspaper and event business all at once today.
And yet, together we have adapted, endured, triumphed and failed without losing our zest to get up in the morning and do it all again.
We have, I think, together and as individuals, managed by and large to maintain our civility and sense of humour and the purpose we set out for ourselves so many years ago: essentially, to animate our communities of interest by bringing together news and opinion about who we are.
In my case I am indebted to my two partners, Abbas Homayed and Patricia Mills. They run our companies in northern Ontario with our shared values but they actually know how to make it work.
And yes, they have been around a while too. Thank you to them and to an extraordinary group of people who make our time together meaningful and treasured.
Michael Atkins is the president of Northern Life.
Posted by Vivian Scinto