Letters to Eureka Street

Answering the needs of the times

One of the questions I most often found myself answering while working at Jesuit Publications was how I came to be involved. The short answer is that I was propositioned by a Jesuit at a pub. Truly. And like most propositions in pubs, one rarely knows just what one is agreeing to in saying ‘yes’. But perhaps this is just as well. While I had no idea of precisely what lay in store for me, I equally could never have predicted how much I’d learn, how many great people I would meet and work beside, or just how fastidious I  would become over the placement of a comma.

The experience of working at Jesuit Publications, and on Eureka Street, was one that was both rich and unpredictable. The magazine was all-consuming in terms of time and energy, but equally incredibly satisfying.

I wonder about the move to publishing Eureka Street online. Publishing is always a gamble, both in what it seeks to do and in terms of the actual process. That’s why I found it so addictive. One can never predict just how well an image will work in print, how surprisingly the colours of a cover will leap from the page, or how a sensitive layout can turn a worthy but weighty piece into an effortless read.

Then there is the interactive component of publishing, ranging from fine and considered responses by readers to articles, to the gleeful discovery by an eagle-eyed subscriber of the typo on page 17 that six rounds of proofing missed.

There is something solid and reliable about a printed page. It is a commitment to the reader and to history. Once back from press, there is no running away from the work you’ve created.

Eureka Street was created to answer the needs of the times. The need for an informed, independent, intelligent and considered forum for public debate remains. And if a new format is required, then again I say ‘yes’, even though I’m not sure what that means for its future. It has been carried by a loyal and supportive readership, and the generosity of its many talented contributors.

Eureka Street has always punched above its weight. I hope it continues to do so.

Marcelle Mogg
Editor, 2003–2005

Making tea and conversation

Around the time I joined Eureka Street I was reading The Decline of the Tea Lady, a delightful book by Jenny Stewart (who also writes in this final print issue).

‘When I first joined the Australian Public Service in the mid-1970s, life with the tea lady would have been unimaginable,’ Stewart wrote. ‘The tea ladies began to disappear in the early 1980s, victims of a vaguely defined climate of financial stringency which nevertheless required its sacrificial victims ...

‘Both in the making of the tea and in the cleaning up, the tea lady represented (to use the jargon term) significant economies of scale, all now sacrificed in the name of economy.’

With some surprise I discovered that not only had Jesuit Publications held out against this trend, but that its resident tea lady was really a bloke—and no less a figure than Andrew Hamilton sj, who each morning made the tea and coffee and rolled it out on a trolley for everyone on the editorial floor (and sometimes the whole office, plus visitors) to enjoy.

Many of you know Fr Hamilton only through his writing, which has been a distinguishing feature of Eureka Street from its beginning. Through it you have come to know his intellectual rigour, and his sense of fairness, compassion and humour. I have come to know him as a man who lives his faith every day, in every way, not least of which is the preparation of a mighty fine cuppa.

Putting out a magazine, as Morag Fraser says in this issue, is a team effort. I never dreamed, 15 years ago, when my colleague at The Canberra Times, Jack Waterford, handed me an early copy of the magazine, that I would someday be part of its editorial team.

That team has changed over the years, but what hasn’t changed is the magazine’s commitment to good writing, whether by experienced observers such as Jack and Andy, or by emerging voices who have gone on to be heard in the wider world.

Looking back over past issues, what strikes me most is the quality and consistency of the writing.

Some articles stand out, such as Margaret Simons’s pieces on the Canberra press gallery and the drought, and Brian Doyle’s short essay on taking to one’s bed.

But the overall impression that lingers is of a body of fine work, about ideas and issues that often were not being discussed in any other public forum.

It’s been a privilege to be, for a short time, a part of that. I’ll miss the morning tea, but even more, the conversation it always inspired.

Robert Hefner
Acting Editor



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