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Eureka Street comes of age

  • 15 March 2012

This month marks the 21st birthday of Eureka Street. Our comparative longevity is a matter for celebration, but not for self-congratulation. As with most small magazines, the celebration of anniversaries allows us to acknowledge the financial subvention that our survival has depended upon. In our case this comes largely from the Australian Jesuits.

Anniversaries also lead us to reflect on the broader context of which we are part. The last 21 years have been tumultuous for print media. The computer transformed the processes of publication. Then the internet fragmented the ways in which people access news and reflection, and reduced revenue from circulation and advertising. All this has affected the quality and authority of print magazines and newspapers.

It is a happy coincidence that our anniversary occurs at a time when the recommendations of the Finkelstein inquiry have just been made public, and when the Leveson inquiry is revealing in close detail the practices, alliances and ethics of sections of the print media in England.

These inquiries have further undermined the authority of print media and have weakened the strength of their protagonists' argument for self-regulation.

In this turbulent lake Eureka Street is a small fish. But it too has had to adjust to its environment. It began and has continued as a magazine of politics, religion and culture, directed to a public audience from a Catholic moral centre. It sought and seeks articles that are well argued and graciously written.

But it has changed under the thrall of the internet. In the face of an ageing and slightly declining audience, the magazine was taken online six years ago. Our subscribers reminded us then of what would be lost, including the beauty, portability and permanence of the print edition as well as the fastidious quality of much of its writing.

They were right in their assertions. But something was also gained: a wider and more lively public conversation that allowed immediate reflection on matters of public interest and immediate response to it through postings. It also faced the editorial staff with the constant need to negotiate the conflicting demands of topicality and of depth.

These have been our domestic concerns. But also they reflect the larger questions faced by the print media. Decline in revenue means newspapers have less resources to pursue investigations in depth and that their fewer journalists are under pressure to take short-cuts in producing more.

Online magazines are also affected. You can