Bill McConkey, Sparkplug of Canadian Arctic Journalism, Walks On

Bill McConkey, 68, walked on unexpectedly following complications that arose from routine surgery at Ottawa General Hospital on March 31.

The world of indigenous journalism was saddened by the passing of William George “Bill” McConkey, described by the newspaper he served faithfully for 33 years as “the tireless engine that drove Nunatsiaq News into the 21st century.” Bill McConkey, 68, succumbed unexpectedly to complications that arose from routine surgery at Ottawa General Hospital on March 31.

He was born in Barrie, Ontario, in 1949 and raised in Mississauga.

He studied journalism and communications at Sheridan College in Ontario and began his career selling advertising for the Oakville Beaver. When he went to work for Nunatsiaq News, the paper was printed offset only in the Iqaluit language only with handwritten Inukitut syllabics.

From that beginning, McConkey helped to bring the Nunatsiaq News to a full color newspaper distributed across the Arctic, the newspaper of record for Nunavut and Nunavik, in addition to an online edition that attracts 15,000 to 20,000 page views per day.

Michael Roberts, president of Ayaya Communications and Marketing and Nortext Publishing Corporation, publisher of Nunatsiaq News, was quoted in the News on the subject of McConkey’s passing:

Over the last 33 years, Bill was a key driving force in making Nunatsiaq News what it is today. He worked through blizzards, floods, and missed planes, and always got the newspaper off to press.

Last week was no exception as he put to bed a full-colour newspaper distributed across the Arctic and half way around the globe. He was a newspaper man through and through, and an icon of northern publishing.

McConkey served on the board of Upassuraakut Counselling Service, which in the early 1990s started Nunavut’s only residential substance abuse treatment center.

He was also an avid golfer, known for organizing Iqaluit’s first “on-the-ice” charity golf tournament.

He leaves his wife, Nenit Pacamcc, son Nathan McConkey, daughters Czarina Palacio and Laura McConkey, and a web of friends and colleagues who will miss his contributions to journalism in the Canadian Arctic.