Meet the old boss

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A quarter-century ago, a group of wild-eyed young people were batting around the idea of founding a newsmagazine to cover the Cree communities of James Bay. They had no resources, no big investor, but they did have the will to work and the zeal to make their vision a reality.

Improbably, the Nation will celebrate its 25th anniversary later this year. Only a few of those founders remain involved in the magazine after all those years, many having gone on to other careers or to found other businesses. One, in particular, editor Will Nicholls, has been instrumental in keeping this unlikely adventure alive.

Since he convinced me to help out about 20 years ago, we’ve shared hundreds of late nights, beavering away at the computer, arguing about stories, discussing how they should be edited, celebrating victories, regretting opportunities that slipped away. Many of those nights may have involved a glass or several, but they always involved camaraderie.

If a small business is like a family, Will has certainly become a brother to me. We share everything, from professional challenges to personal problems. We’ve fought, hugged it out, and fought again, only to end up laughing.

We’ve grown up with this magazine, and have found ourselves in middle age, with the added wisdom that comes with time and experience but also with another set of worries and insecurities. The magazine’s character has changed along with us. Sometimes thoughts of how to ensure the survival of this young adult called the Nation creep in.

These thoughts were triggered as I visited Will in the hospital several times last week (including for a midnight McDonald’s run to supplement his bland hospital diet) after he suffered a broken ankle. The wounds take longer to heal now, as I have also discovered with a hockey injury that is still painful weeks after it occurred. We’re no longer the young men who find it easy to bounce back from the collisions we encounter in life.

But I am heartened by the young talent and energy that has come along to help us continue churning out issue after issue. Some recent additions weren’t even born when the Nation began publishing. But their new ideas and approaches have contributed to keeping the magazine fresh and relevant. This reassures me that Will Nicholls’ baby will continue living and thriving long after we have turned our last page.

Until then, however, we have many more issues to publish, battles to fight and glasses to drain. The rookies will keep us on our toes even as we try to teach them an old trick or two.

And to you, my brother, I raise my glass. You may not be as light on your feet for a little while, but with a little help we will still meet a few more deadlines.

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