The Northern Star in Prince George

The Northern Star Magazine, British Columbia, Alternative media print and online publication

Will Lewis, Northern Star Online writer, editor, publisher and daily bloggerWill Lewis is a loud voice, west of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. He’s an alternative media print publisher in Prince George, British Columbia, with a well trafficked website and blog. Because storytelling runs in his blood, he writes news, comedy and political satire. His mother was one of the first aboriginal women in all of North America to get a university degree, and he has the same pioneering spirit.

The Northern Star is best categorized as ‘alternative media’, and has one goal – to entertain its readers. Every edition is filled with news stories, folk tales and funny observations. Will, and his wife Cathie, believe their job is to make readers think, smile and feel better about themselves. The Northern Star blog is an effective content repository, where they showcase the best articles and jokes from their weekly publication. Anyone is welcome to respond with their comments. Will says, “We actually began blogging as an afterthought. We first created a printed magazine, developed a readership, and then created the blog to build upon that audience.”

Will and Cathie produce The Northern Star in Prince George, British Columbia, but it’s enjoyed around the world. Even the local political articles, Will's Thoughts on The Northern Star in Prince George British Columbiaespecially Will’s Thoughts, wherein he gets very opinionated about actions and decisions of politicians and government, is enjoyed world wide. Beyond that, there’s plenty of human interest pieces, like the story on Purina’s new TV commercials for dogs, and how Knokkers is played in Missouri. They profiled Leonard George Casley, the independent micro nation known as the Hutt River Principality in Australia, and closer to their home is a fascinating overview of Spotted Lake, a volcanic water body in southern BC, that weeps mineral rich mud in an unusual spotted pattern. Will follows his own passion, and publishes things that makes one think – he shares a growing conviction that ‘We Are E.T.’ (Extraterrestrials) with his readers, in pieces relating facts that challenge the standard belief system regarding the origin of mankind. But don’t misunderstand, The Northern Star is a family friendly publication, that fundamentally respects the diversity of our multicultural world.

The Northern Star, valuing differences, celebrating diversityThe Northern Star is an Aboriginal Owned and Operated Print and Online Publication

Because The Northern Star is physically circulated in print, available online, and directly mailed to thousands of email addresses, Will and Cathie can offer advertisers a variety of different options, different platforms and delivery perspectives. They have more than a dozen long term advertisers, and get good return from their ad network, which speaks volumes about their business acumen. According to Lewis, however, …the biggest obstacle we run into is that many businesses are reluctant to do business with an aboriginally owned and operated company. That’s a fascinating statement, because it makes his own writer’s quest for racial and religious tolerance even more profound.

Unfortunately, Will can’t publish all of his opinionated beliefs, because Cathie is the final filter who won’t allow some of it. When we asked him the worst thing that’s ever happened to him since publishing, he alluded to creative differences with Cathie.

Mel trucker stories truck driver british columbia blog

One of the best things to come from the rise of The Northern Star, is the discovery and promotion of Mel McConaghy, an original voice found in a retired truck driver, who started life as a dyslexic eighth grade dropout, and is now an internationally acclaimed writer. This long journey occurred in part, because of the exposure he receives from his own website, My Life Through A Broken Windshield, Trucker’s Tales From The Road Of Life, which is truncated and published as a weekly column in The Northern Star.

BC truck driver navigates a mountain creek with big tractor trailer

Some terrific examples of Will’s writing occur in Will’s Thoughts, like this favourite, wherein Will confesses to being a belief-o-holic. He writes,

Hi, my name is Will and I am a Belief-o-holic. Beliefs have always been my best friends. I used beliefs to feel better, to ease my pain, and to end my loneliness. Sometimes I believed in public, but most often, I believed alone. I’ve suffered horribly, and caused others to suffer, because of my addiction to beliefs. I put beliefs ahead of my family, friends and community. Beliefs made me do things that I am ashamed of, and almost destroyed my life.

More wisdom in Will’s Thoughts when he writes about the moral ambiguity of the word ‘okay’; he says, …any time that you hear someone say ‘that’s okay’, pay real close attention to how it’s being used.

And this little gem, ‘The Problem With Education’, is a delightful look at a dinner party, where the truth about teachers is revealed to a money grubbing career driven corporate CEO. It’s immensely enjoyable, and like the rest of The Northern Star, it shares a simple mandate to make people smile and give them hope.

Midnight Poutine in Montreal

Midnight Poutine logoUnlike other domains profiled here, Midnight Poutine is not someone’s personal blog, but rather, a blog collective owned by an entrepreneur named Tim Shore. The writers get some of the revenue paid by advertisers.

Tim Shore also owns blogTO which serves Toronto, and Beyond Robson in Vancouver – all under the holding, which as of Feb 28th 2009 is still under construction. But Tim and Fresh Daily are not the subject of this profile – this post is all about Midnight Poutine, because it’s such an absolute gem. The picture below is very indicative of the type of citizen journalism that doesn’t wait for snow removal or police barricadfes to come down before finding and reporting the truth from a Montreal pedestrian’s perspective.

Montreal bike riderWhat is Poutine?
Poutine is a dish consisting of French fries topped with fresh cheese curds, covered with brown gravy. It’s comfort food, especially in Quebec and it’s a signature dish in many Montreal eateries.

What’s in Midnight Poutine?
Midnight is a perfect blog name. It correctly suggests unique content about Montreal night life, arts and culture. Readers who spot the domain name in a blog roll are instantly motivated to investigate, just to see if the destination lives up to what they imagine it should be, and it does.

About Midnight Poutine
Tim ShoreMontrealers need Midnight Poutine. It’s a personal ongoing account of the city’s happenings. It’s a delicious high-fat source of rants, raves and musings. It provides the insight you never find in newspapers and the details and tangents that would never fit in a weekly. It possesses cheese-like flexibility. It’s sometimes snarky, often unusual and always informative. Your order has arrived. Dig in.

A blog with seven authors
There are at least seven contributors in the About Us index. Some write more than others, but each maintains a presence in their genre to offer readers a smattering of local content that cannot be found in newspapers or anywhere else online. My favourite author is Jeff daSilva, I like his style the best and identify most with his local news subject matter.

Jeff daSilva
Jeff daSilvaJeff is a fashion working rock/skate type guy who loves dodgy bars, pubs, and all sorts of music. A terrific example of Jeff’s work is something he wrote after visiting a liquor store, in the province of Quebec where he postulates that BYOB will soon have  a new meaning – bring your own bag. Liqour laws are different all over Canada.

SAQ in Montreal

The portal is popular and will, in the future, help Montreal become a better city – some of their link bait content includes a rant post about the bus fares and cost of public transit . This post is one of their most popular, even though it’s entirely in French!

Midnight Poutine has a very popular Flickr photo group, with thousands of images, and has just emerged on Twitter where they have 13 followers – these are early days.

Bookmark and Share

Gigababy in Ontario

GigababyCindy Smith lives in Bowmaville Ontario and works Monday to Friday in downtown Toronto. She’s a commuter, in her late twenties, married with one child. And If I told you she’s also a blogger, you might expect a personal diary full of home cooked recipes, pet anecdotes and pictures of her kid. But no, Gigababy has evolved her blogspot meme into something Canadian society desperately needs, and something thousands of readers have come to depend on for a different kind of comfort.

Gigababy Facebook Gigababy’s Web Creed Education for the Driving Masses is not like other traffic blogs, and that’s because this is primarily a traffic event blog (there is no such word as accident in Cindy’s vocabulary). Gigababy’s Web Creed creates interactive news media that’s focused on one subject – car crashes.

Every single day, even on Christmas and New Years Eve, Gigababy reposts local news media on the worst traffic incidents across Canada. If two people are killed on a highway in Quebec, you can expect to find a newspaper report (usually from the area) with all the details on the subject reposted on Gigababy’s Web Creed the next day.

The Heart GroupWhy does Cindy do this? Because someone has to do this. Gigababy gets almost dozens of comments a day from people that need to grieve and write something somewhere to clear their minds before they can go on with their lives. The comment box is where the action is; sometimes the relatives of the victims and the friends of the accused get emotional, at each other – then Cindy locks up the comment box and everyone has to move on.  There are no advertisements on the website, except to raise awareness for charities.

Billie Mintz with Gigababy Billy Mintz, the Corporate Social Responsibility expert storyteller behind ARC Artists Raising Consciousness put Cindy Smith on camera for his Message in a Bottle video series that focuses on the dissemination of the responsible drinking message. These two experts met on Sat December 6th 2008 at Cindy’s parent’s house in Toronto – that’s Cindy’s mom directing the shooting in the background. Gigababy has a lot to say about how Canadians legislate new laws, prosecute offenders and mourn fatalities. She writes everday as an advocate of change – and she’s finally starting to get some real attention.

How did Gigababy get started?

Years ago, and for reasons only she knows, Mrs. Smith internalized the sad story of David Glenn Virgoe of Innisfil, Ontario, a driver for Wilburn Archer Trucking who swerved to avoid a street racer and flipped his tractor trailer at the side of Highway 400 near Bradford, Ontario, on June 18, 2007. Although an air ambulance was called to the scene, Mr. Virgoe, 48, died before he could be transported to hospital. But it was his quick selfless reaction, for which Mr. Virgoe was hailed as a hero by witnesses and Ontario police, who said his actions saved the lives of countless others that truly inspired Cindy.  She paralleled her own father’s career as a truck driver and his stories of highway driving and she took action in the form of a blog.

Three men were arrested for dangerous driving resulting in death. Mr. Virgoe left behind a wife Debbie, and three children and five grandchildren – and Gigababy’s Web Creed was born. Today and everyday Cindy Smith writes Gigababy to make Canadian roads safer.

server colocation

Bookmark and Share

Outdoors in Muskoka Ontario

Muskoka Outdoors banner
Bill Anderson was raised in Huntsville Ontario and grew up hunting and fishing alongside his father, and grandfather. He remembers when Muskoka wasn’t such a glamorous holiday destination, and there were more loggers than cottagers in Gravenhurst. Hiking outdoors with a rifle, crossbow, or rod (and sometimes all three) is an Anderson family tradition that hardens the boys into men by subjecting them early to the awesome power of nature.

Bill Anderson with bassMuskoka Outdoors recounts Bill’s experiences with all of the most popular northern Canadian pastimes, and that includes seasonal hunting and fishing, and also hiking, sledding and cross country skiing in the winter. Above and beyond the action components, Bill’s blog gives him an outlet to share personal stories, like the birth of his daughter.  He keeps readers informed with up to date moose tracking reports, recent cougar sightings, wild turkey tag regulations, and blueprints for ice fishing huts.

But Bill Anderson is not as much of a local yokel as I wish he was. He’s not the type to drive into town with fish guts on his pants and a gun rack in his truck, but almost. You’ve seen guys like him filing red gas cans at Petro stations when you pull in for directions. He’s a big fish in a small pond and floats a couple of boats. Do you ever wonder what his life is really like? Is it simply awesome? What’s it like to live out on the lakes all year long? A post like Sweet Spots answers that question, nicely. That entry is also a passionate piece of self reflection on the man behind the blog.

Muskoka Outdoors - fishBill embraces blogging because it gives him the ability to recount his stories. Though he humbly insists he’s not a good writer, his writing is fine, and his photos are great. Put together his photo journalism is winning friends and influencing people as his readership grows. And that’s because he lives the subject, and qualifies as an expert in this popular niche.

Having an aesthetically pleasing website with lots of interesting content is important, but Bill’s advice to new bloggers is to take advantage of technology and join blog indexes and similar social networks, and spend some time everyday reading and leaving smart comments on other people’s blogs.

Muskoka Outdoors is a sexy tackle box stuffed full of sweet bait that’s informative and sometimes provocative. Bill says it’s important to ask questions in your posts, and respond to reader comments. He always replies, even if the comments are bad. Muskoka Sunset“Remember, we live in a country where differences in opinions are valued. Agree to disagree and thank them for their comment.”

Muskoka Outdoors is great reading for everyone – the writing isn’t limited to fishing trips and hunting expeditions but rather its the real accounts of a man who enjoys these sports, and takes pride in his family and being a father. It’s an inside look at life in one of the most beautiful parts of Canada.

Bookmark and Share

Canadian Heroes

Canadian Heroes logo

A digital cenotaph,  this is the best place online to remember and honour the Canadian soldiers that have died during Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan. Each fallen hero is presented in some detail, and eulogized as he is laid to rest.  But this respectful Canadian blogspot is also filled with pictures of the living. In some stories there are images of children in Afghan farm villages, and civilians herding livestock alongside military vehicles – the blog communicates a subtle understanding of life in and around Kandahar, from the sombre perspective of funerary anecdotes.

Canadian Heroes is authored by a volunteer committee of news media writers. It shares some some connection with CTV. Paul, the primary contributor, seems very knowledgeable about the overall mission, and in some cases he describes the people he’s met, and the places he’s seen first hand. The tone is always courteous, and the text is void of any opinions or political debate. The comment function has been disabled.


This week, August 22-26 the unique and necessary blog laid to rest three more Canadian soldiers. From left to right: Sgt. Shawn Allen Eade, Cpl. Dustin Roy Robert Joseph Wasden, Sapper Stephan John Stock (Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

Canadian Heroes is a respectful flagpost on the Internet; it’s an information rich reminder that Canada is at war, and young Canadians are sacrificing their lives to help make Afghanistan safe for the men, women and children who live there.