This site started in 2002 in preparation for the creation of an online alternative to increasingly unethical daily media, and to provide a forum for Chatham-Kent residents to express opinions. It's taken longer than expected for online news sources to take off, but the last 12 months has seen the internet threaten mainstream media by putting news back in the hands of people.
The Maple City Star came to focus on municipal politics when other local media began intentionally spinning the news and ignoring information of public interest and evidence of political malfeasance. Our probes threatened to overturn the apple cart, so we were forced off the air for a time by threats designed to intimidate further research into the truth and chill any criticism against the mayor. If you didn't know this was going on in Chatham-Kent, then it's no wonder you can't trust the newspaper or politicians, since the media were even intimidated into severing our historical working relationship to keep this quiet.
At this time, we are not a commercial site. We know that other media colour their commentary based on the pressure or rewards of advertisers, so nothing is really objective. This is what we wish to avoid. Despite incorrect guesses to the contrary, this site belongs to Austin Wright and always has.
Mr. Wright is a professional photographer with over 30 years experience. He worked as a photo technician and journalist at the Chatham Daily News under Steve Zak. During his time, colour news photography was in its infancy. Colour photos had to be pre-arranged, then sent offsite for costly separations, causing significant delays. Austin invented a technique to produce the colour plates on site. For the first time in history, the Chatham Daily News was able to include breaking news photography in colour. Fergie Jenkins' induction into the baseball hall of fame, photographed by Dan Janisse, appeared in colour on the front page mere hours after the event in Cooperstown, New York.
Austin continued with the Chatham Daily News, helping to oversee the introduction of a colour darkroom and emerging digital imaging techniques. He left the news to start his own photo business, Wright Colour Lab, but remained a contributor of news and photographs for many years while performing emergency standby service and troubleshooting to the photo department.
One of Wright Colour Lab's first clients was Chatham This Week, a weekly startup building on the success of a sister publication specializing in classified advertising. Their photo department consisted of using a photocopier to PMT images, and the results were terrible. Austin took over the photo production on an outsource basis, raising the standards by professionally developing the reporters' film each week and serving as photo editor.
For many years, Austin's company provided deadline colour separations for various other Southwestern Ontario weekly newspapers, including the Spirit of Bothwell and North Kent Leader.
In 2003, Austin began growing frustrated with the stagnant Chatham-Kent business climate and lack of vision at city hall, and entered the mayoral race to do something about it. Despite being unknown in political circles, Austin soon proved capable of holding his own in the debates while voicing innovative progressive ideas. Of six candidates that included a former councillor and the popular late former mayor's brother, Austin placed second to incumbent mayor Gagner. Much of his campaign platform found its way into policy anyway, and in the next election, into other candidates' campaigns.
Austin kept involved in politics, attending council meetings and doing research. In 2006, he ran a successful campaign headed for a seat on municipal council. His hopes were dashed, however, when anonymous defamatory advertising asserting malicious falsehoods was published the day before the election. Despite complaints to the publisher, the ads were repeated on election day, and his rebuttal was ignored. It seems his ideas, while good enough to be borrowed by several mayoral candidates, threatened somebody's interest in maintaining the status quo. The cowards responsible for purchasing the advertisements never admitted responsibility, and the publisher refused to identify them. This was undoubtedly the worst instance of mudslinging ever witnessed in a Chatham-Kent municipal election, and nobody ever faced justice over the dark incident.
Despite the demands of two businesses, two young children, and a wife fighting breast cancer, Austin maintains an active profile in the community. He is a respected instructor at St. Clair College, teaching digital photography in one of their most popular course offerings. He has also been a Minister of Music in the United Church since 1993 as an accomplished organist/musician and choir director. Austin even digs under the keyboards as a piano tuner/technician.
Austin volunteered his skills as pilot to conduct an aerial survey of every Chatham-Kent school, pool, and many other public places, highlighting the lack of shade. His resulting presentation in support of the Health Unit's skin cancer awareness program has been well-received by Rotary and medical professionals. In addition, Austin has been an active volunteer with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Olympic Torch Run, he plays the piano for Wallaceburg Rotary, is past president of the Chatham chapter of Royal Canadian College of Organists, is appointed as the Certified Emergency Coordinator for Chatham-Kent in the Amateur Radio Emergency Service; he's a member of the OPP Amber Alert Network, a devoted severe weather observer trained by Environment Canada for CANWARN, and has taken a leadership role in several Emergency Management Ontario simulated emergency tests and nets.
Some of the causes supported by Austin Wright include Take a Bow Productions, The Festival of Trees, Clear Creek Forest, Ursuline College, Kiwanis Music Festival, Theatre Kent, CCI Co-operative Education Program, Chatham Rotary, Easter Seals, Big Sisters, Chatham Junior Maroons, Chatham Soccer Association, YMCA Volleyball Camp, Miles Miracle Mission, Rondeau Provincial Park, Thames River Cleanup, Scouts Canada, and more.
Austin is a Certified Broadcast Technologist with experience in radio and television, and is a full member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. He is a licenced Advanced Amateur Radio Operator. His technical papers have been noted by Industry Canada, the Radio Advisory Board of Canada, the Radio Amateurs of Canada, and Emergency Management Ontario. He is trained in WHMIS, and Accessibility Standards for Customer Service.
Articles written by Austin have been published in national magazines and media sites. His award-winning photography has been displayed twice at the Chatham-Kent Art Gallery, and appeared in many publications, including "Chatham-Kent Exposed". Several video productions have been broadcast, and he enjoys 16mm filmmaking and video documentaries. He's working on a script for a full length feature film, and writing several books. Other interests include wilderness canoeing, astronomy, science, and electronics.
At various times, Austin has held some interesting positions:
- Agriculture worker on several local farms
- At the Toronto Auto Auction as manager of the multi-million dollar Chrysler account
- Building, tuning and maintaining pipe organs in Ontario and Michigan
- Manufacturing and selling electronic components designed and built from scratch
- Assistant manager and horticultural propagator in the family nursery business
- Recording engineer on commercial CDs
- Sang tenor with the Laudate Dominum Choir
- Computer programming in Visual Basic, C++, PHP, HTML, CSS, SQL and Java. Written applications for Point of Sale, Accounting, Web Server, Mail Server, DNS Server, E-commerce, and digital imaging. On the development team of Open Source projects.
- Solved a case in cyberspace where a malicious website was set up anonymously to defame a local business and its customers
- Became an expert in the law of defamation
Austin has experienced many adventures. As a Private Pilot, he's piloted his small plane to Florida, Cape Breton Island, Wawa and West Virginia, and the stops included Toronto Pearson International Airport, Ottawa International, Montreal Dorval, Halifax International, Space Shuttle Executive, Tuskegee Field, Nashville International (at night), and Deer Run Golf Course. His paddling expeditions have taken the red Prospector to the wild Pukaskwa and Gargantua coasts of Lake Superior, and several rivers - where he photographed and painted alone for weeks. His wings were somewhat clipped after he suffered from alleged medical malpractice during surgery in Toronto in 2001, resulting in a permanent painful condition for which he works hard to overcome the impact on his activities.
Austin Wright enjoys writing and thinking up new ideas from outside the box. He vows to keep involved with local politics to help put his community back on track, despite the underhanded attempts to take him out of circulation.