IMAGE turns fifty

Bob Meldrum


A 1970 report stated “Sandy Hill appears initially as a pleasant older downtown neighbourhood containing an expanding university. It does, however, possess many of the problems of an inner city community: the pressures of growth, the physical decline of some housing stock, the disruption from through traffic, and the possibility of new transportation routes severing the community.”

This report led to the funding and creation of the Sandy Hill Neighbourhood Study by the City of Ottawa. One recommendation from the study was that there should be a newspaper for the area.

Diane Wood took up the challenge and recruited Elinor Mueller and Jan Meldrum to help. Using a mechanical typewriter and paste-up to cardboard sheets, and aided by the technical help of Steven Rector, they created the first edition of the neighbourhood newspaper within the span of a final all-night session. That no-name edition came out December 10, 1972.

A contest was held for a permanent name. Richard Lee, then a 26-year-old Carleton student, suggested Image:  “. . . a word that in both French and English conveys the idea of holding a mirror up to the community.” He beat-out 49 other suggestions.

A front page editorial in that first issue outlined the paper’s aim: “. . . to help involve as many people as possible in . . . [community] activities and . . . to make us all aware of the political happenings and projects of all kinds which affect our community.” IMAGE’s aim has continued to be basically the same. For 50 years it has endeavoured to be a focus for community dialogue.

IMAGE began as an eight-page monthly run by volunteers and funded by advertising revenue. IMAGE volunteers are forever grateful to the local business people who continue to support the paper and especially remember those who bought ads in the first issue — sight unseen.

Through 50 years, the publication frequency and size changed such that now you see 20 pages or more and usually five issues a year. However, a volunteer staff is still in charge, and advertising revenue continues to cover costs. In the early years, even door-to-door delivery was done by volunteers — much trudging the streets in all weathers. Fortunately, a contractor now does the job.

Over the years, IMAGE has had many fine editors. Some served for a year — or a few — but in the 1990s there arrived three dedicated volunteers: Hilary Russell, who held the post for about six years before moving out of Ottawa, and Jane Waterston, who began in 1999 with the help of Judy Rinfret. These editors brought the paper into the age of colour and computers, making it into the professional-looking 20-page publication it is today.

In fact, we can add award-winning to the description. In June 2021, the Federation of Citizens’ Associations (68 Ottawa area community groups, including Action Sandy Hill) selected IMAGE for their 2021 Excellence in Media Award, in particular for the coverage of the pandemic in the April 2020 issue (available at the IMAGE website Archives section). Hilary Duff’s article on community response and Martha Milne’s article on Somali women’s outreach were specifically commended in the citation.

As Jane Waterston steps back from over 20 years at the editor’s desk, making space for new volunteers such as Adam Sopuck (who is this edition’s guest editor), the need is ever-increasing to keep the community informed.


Page one banners from the 70s and 80s: we’re not known for graphics!