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Jack (Sig) Sigvaldason earns international journalism award
Northern newspaper publisher honoured by editors in England

NNSL staff
Northern News Services
Published Monday, July 25, 2011

LONDON - As the largest newspaper in the English-speaking world – News of the World – was being marched to the guillotine for unethical journalism in Britain earlier this month, two hours North of London, Yellowknifer publisher Jack (Sig) Sigvaldason was receiving an award for his honest brand of community newspaper journalism.

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Northern publisher Jack Sigvaldason was recently honoured in England for a long and distinguished career in community journalism. - NNSL photo

Almost 60 editors from the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia and England converged July 5 on the University of Warwick in Coventry, the chosen setting for this year's annual meeting of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, at which Sigvaldason received their highest award of journalism excellence.

"During a career that has spanned 40 years, Sig has built a mini newspaper empire in Canada’s massive Northwest Territories and Nunavut under conditions that would bring anyone else to their knees," said Paul MacNeill, publisher and owner of Island Press Ltd. of Montague, P.E.I. MacNeill nominated Sigvaldason for The Eugene Cervi Award.

Fair and aggressive

Sigvaldason's "papers are fair, aggressive and never shy away from a necessary fight. They have won dozens of awards, including being named Best Community Newspaper in Canada. They make money – a requisite for long-term, good journalism – in a region many would write off as a business wasteland."

The Eugene Cervi Award was established by ISWNE to honour the memory of Eugene Cervi of the Rocky Mountain Journal in Denver, Colo., by recognizing a newspaper editor who has consistently acted in the conviction that “good journalism begets good government.”

According to ISWNE policy, "the award is presented not for a single brave accomplishment, however deserving, but for a career of outstanding public service through community journalism and for adhering to the highest standards of the craft with the deep reverence for the English language that was the hallmark of Eugene Cervi's writing. The award also recognizes consistently aggressive reporting of government at the grassroots level and interpretation of local affairs."

After 18 years in the advertising business, Sigvaldason moved North in 1969 as editor and entire news staff of the NWT weekly newspaper News of the North (now News/North).

He was fired two and half years later, allegedly because his hard-hitting editorials had antagonized all levels of government. Sigvaldason then formed Northern News Services and launched the local weekly newspaper, Yellowknifer in competition. After seven years head-to-head combat. NNSL purchased News of the North and Sigvaldason had his old job back.

Early Beginnings

Now Sigvaldason, with long-time business partner Mike Scott, publishes six newspapers spread over 63 communities and 3,2 million square kilometres (Nunavut News/North, NWT News/North, Yellowknifer, Kivalliq News, Deh Cho Drum and Inuvik Drum). Two of the papers were purchased and five started from scratch.

Sigvaldason started at a Manitoba daily in 1951, on his 18th birthday, as an advertising rep. After three years he moved to a business-paper publisher where he co-ordinated promotion and research for ten magazines.

Two years later he founded his own advertising agency and in 1963 moved with his clients to a major international agency where he held a number of creative positions in print and broadcast. Finally in 1969 it was time for a career change to community journalism.

The past few years, Sigvaldason's attention has shifted from writing to management, but he remains involved with editorial policy, page design and web development. His career has spanned hot metal to html.

Sigvaldason's nomination was supported by former Great Slave MLA Bill Braden who worked as a cub photographer for Yellowknifer, former territorial cabinet minister Jakes Ootes, himself a former community newspaper and magazine publisher, and Peter Irniq, also a former MLA and Nunavut commissioner as well as an award-winning columnist with Nunavut News/North.

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