President, Laurentian Publishing
After attending Carleton University in Ottawa, and an adventure of discovery through Europe in the early 1970s, Atkins worked briefly for the federal government in the newly amalgamated city of Thunder Bay where he made the mistake of criticizing the Ontario Opportunities for Youth job creation program in a 50-page report.
Soon after, he began his newspaper career as a reporter at the Fort William Times Journal. He had found his life's work but left the paper after a disagreement with the editor over his coverage of urban renewal in Port Arthur. He later purchased that paper’s competitor – the Lakefield Living.
Following a stint at The Manitoulin Expositor, he moved to Sudbury. At the age of 25, he was editor and publisher of the Sudbury Northern Life. At one time, Northern Life published three editions every week and was delivered to more than 40,000 homes providing fierce competition for readership and advertising revenue for Sudbury's daily newspaper.
In 1980, he launched Northern Ontario Business, a newspaper which bridged northern communities for the first time. This network laid the foundation for the annual Northern Ontario Business Award program in 1987.
As Northern Life and Northern Ontario Business grew into Laurentian Publishing, Atkins developed a penchant for wearing suspenders and pinstripe suits. People who knew him as "Mike" now referred to him as Michael.
At one time Atkins owned more than a dozen community newspapers throughout Ontario including newspapers in Parry Sound, Sturgeon Falls and Nipigon. In Sudbury, Laurentian published Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, Northern Ontario Medical Journal, and Sudbury Living magazine.
In 2004, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his ownership of Northern Life, Atkins was inspired to start the Community Builders Awards to honour leaders in Sudbury. Like the business awards, this much anticipated annual event generated community pride.
Atkins was one of the first community newspaper publishers to embrace digital media, and in 2003 launched Northernlife.ca. The website, which won provincial and national awards, was rebranded as Sudbury.com in 2016. It was purchased by Village Media in 2020.
He served as chair of the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT) and chair of the Laurentian University board of governors.
His influence was also felt as chair of the Canadian Business Press, president of the Association of Area Business Publications (USA), and director of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and the Ontario Community Newspaper Association.
His business interests expanded to Toronto and other markets. Laurentian Media Group became a diversified media company that included IT World Canada Inc., a print and digital trade group; CCMC Sports Group, an integrated sports marketing and publishing company; ConceptShare Inc., a web-based design collaborationbusiness; Xpeerient Inc., an ICT outsourcing platform; and Adventus International Limited, a digital music business.
Although he was enthusiastically involved with awards programs for business and community leaders, he discouraged people from nominating him for honours.
Thankfully, they did not listen. Atkins was a recipient of the Paul Harris Fellow Award from the Rotary Club of Sudbury, an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Laurentian University, and the prestigious Dr. Fred Sheridan Award from Cambrian College.
The OCNA Hall of Fame Award recognizes and celebrates individuals who have made exemplary contributions to Ontario’s community newspapers. Inductees are respected community news professionals who have remained passionate about the industry throughout challenges, opportunities, and changes. They are leaders who have helped community newspapers adapt and grow.