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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Guest column: Chapter two in a journalism career

Hello, Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s a pleasure to be here. I am the latest Richard to join The Lake Report’s editorial staff. Richard Wright, to be precise. 

And no, not that Richard Wright. I have yet to have the pleasure of meeting the esteemed NOTL author with whom I share a name. I have to say it is on my bucket list, though. Perhaps he and I will speak about the times he’s been mistaken for me. 

I jest.

It’s been five weeks now that I have been chasing stories around the community, and for a number of reasons, it’s been five weeks of nostalgic and professional joy.

You see, there was a time when I thought my journalism career was over. I got my start in the newspaper business in 1994 fresh out of journalism school.

I packed my 1976 Mercury Monarch, picked up my TripTik from the CAA (I am sure many of you remember those; they were the personalized note-pad-like precursor to GPS) and left Niagara for Alberta.

My first job was at a weekly newspaper in Slave Lake. It might as well have been the moon, for all I knew.

Man, that was a culture shock. Northern Alberta is nothing like southern Ontario. But in the end, that’s what made it so great for a young guy like me out there trying to start a career.

It was there I cut my teeth as the only reporter for a paper much like the one I work for now. I covered everything: civic news, court, sports, general news … You name it, I was on it.

But there was a gig that I really wanted to specialize in, the reason I got into journalism in the first place.

I am a sports guy, always have been. I played almost every sport on an organized level. I’ve coached and now I am a referee with the Niagara District Basketball Referees Association.

Anyway, after a few more stints covering community news for papers in small-town Alberta, I got my first job as a full-time sports writer with Fort McMurray Today. If Slave Lake was the dark side of the moon, Fort McMurray was Mars.

But it was a growing community, a daily newspaper, had a Junior A hockey team, a vibrant high school sports scene and because it was so remote, there were plenty of community-based sports to keep a guy like me busy.

I finished the first chapter of my journalism career with the Edmonton Sun as an editor and writer for the tabloid’s special sections department.

I also created a weekly Alberta Junior Hockey League column, coverage that had never been published before in the Sun. I was, and am, particularly proud of that.

Junior A hockey is a big thing in Alberta and deserves the attention normally reserved for major junior. 

But for anyone in the newspaper business, 2007 will be remembered as a time of change. It was the year the internet finally caught up with print journalism. 

I was in denial the whole time.

What? People are going to read the news on tablets and their phones? Pfft! Never. Everyone loves to have that hard copy with their morning coffee or after-work beer. 

That’s another reason I like The Lake Report and its readers. Y’all still read the paper. It’s so nice to go to the Tim Hortons right down the street from the newsroom and see everyone sitting with a copy and their heads in the news.

So, 2007 is when Sun Media began its aggressive workforce changes. I lost my job along with 500 other staffers across the country. 

The changes to print journalism since then are well-documented. 

I have to give another nod to Richard Harley and Kevin MacLean here at The Lake Report for keeping tradition alive and doing such a good job at it. 

More print newspapers continue to fall by the wayside every year. But here The Lake Report is thriving — kudos.

After the Sun I moved into corporate communications, media relations  — seven years in the post-secondary industry and four years with the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce made up the bulk of my time in that world.

In 2019, with my kids grown and my aging mother still here in Niagara, old friends still around to welcome me back, I made the return home.

I took a couple years off work, picked up some temporary positions along the way and enjoyed being able to live and play in Niagara, my birthplace. 

And one day I saw an ad for a reporter’s position at a small paper in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Jump ahead and here I am, back to where it all started, professionally and personally. 

I hope I can do this paper some justice. I learned very quickly that it is only a small-town newspaper in its description. Its leadership and dedication to excellence and covering the hard news with integrity and bite is admirable. 

I am learning a lot all over again. So far this second chapter of my journalism career has opened as a page-turner. 

I got to break the story on Zeus the abducted cat in my first two weeks! Watch out Pulitzer, here I come, straight off the back of the missing feline.

But seriously, I am glad he’s back home with his owners.

And I’m glad to be home, too. 

Niagara is a wonderful place and NOTL is a wonderful community. Thank you to everyone I have met so far.

You have all made my short time here enjoyable and I hope to stick around for a while.

Richard Wright writes primarily about the agriculture and business sectors for The Lake Report.

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