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Eureka Street comes of age


Eureka Street coversThis 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 write much more reflectively when you have a month to ponder and revise what you want to say, and a couple of thousand words to say it in. To respond to this afternoon's news by writing a 700 word piece for publication tomorrow necessarily allows less time for research and reflection and encourages less grounded opinion.

This is fine as long as you recognise that what you have written complements but is no substitute for writing of greater substance.

The proliferation of opinion might also contribute to the polarisation so evident in public conversation. The aggressive character of much comment certainly tempts journalists to become players in political life. Certainly what they write will influence people, and to that extent is a political intervention. It is an easy shift from recognising this fact to trying to control the political agenda.

A particular challenge Eureka Street has had to negotiate is the polarisation of attitudes within the Catholic Church.

Our commitment to write in a public language for a public audience has been helpful in this respect. It enables us to exclude articles that are written for an exclusively Catholic audience in a language accessible only to Catholics.

But as a magazine with Catholic sponsorship we are always at risk of becoming players in disputes between Catholics, whether by being silent about abuses in the Catholic Church and by defending a party line, or by lambasting the Church for its failures and becoming protagonists for reform. A cool approach that seeks understanding has proved more helpful in promoting public conversation.

The great temptation of all writers and all magazines of opinion is to enjoy the sound of their own voice and to ascend to public recognition trailing clouds of pomposity. In our case the temptation is to identify the humane and reasoned values that we uphold with our own personal values. That could lead to a culture in which we represent in the magazine only the views of people like us.

In this, as in the other challenges that Eureka Street shares with other players in the media, large and small, we trust that you our readers will keep us honest.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Eureka Street Classic: The Print Years — To mark the 21st birthday of Eureka Street, we are throwing open the vault and for the first time ever making the entire archive of print editions (1991–2006) available online. The first ten years are here. The rest will appear during the days to come. It's just one way for us to celebrate, and to say thank you to all our loyal readers.

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street. He has been writing for the magazine for 21 years.

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, 21st birthday, media



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Existing comments

Thanks Andy, and congratulations to everyone at Eureka Street today, and to the Jesuits for their subvention. This is a significant milestone. Thanks, too, for the back copies – what a great surprise. But what a reminder, also, of how the Streetscape has changed. In the beginning we wanted to have a shopfront on the street, open to the world, adopting the then 'new' desktop publishing technology. I miss the reflective quality of 'slow' reading, but I am glad Eureka Street was allowed to develop into a broader community of readers and writers and activists, to become part of a global concern. Our contemporary rush hour and information saturation provide little space for reflection, and Eureka Street may have taken a risk in being caught up in the instant news cycle, but it still clearly offers a salutory reflective tone. Keep going.

John Honner | 15 March 2012  

I look forward to reading Eureka Street every morning. I enjoy the well balanced views that are presented, a healthy antidote to the garbage in most of the secular media.

Frank O'Dea | 15 March 2012  

Eureka Street, in both its print and online manifestations, has been a true godsend. It is independent media at its best, encouraging us to reflect upon the stories and themes of our day, in the light of the great message of God's love to the world. How wonderful to see all the past print issues online, including those crossword puzzles devised by the erudite and tricky Joan Nowotny. I might just while away an hour or two trying to solve some of them all over again!

Janet | 15 March 2012  

I first learned of the Jesuit Order when two members preached a Mission in Northern Ireland in 1947. I was an altar boy then and heard two sermons a day for eight days as they tried to revive the drooping spirits of catholics emerging from the horrors of World War 2. Even at that young age I detected a format to their sermons. They began with a story, usually a joke - to get our attention, I suppose, but also to establish rapport. Their sermons were short - never more than twenty minutes.And they usually only had one point to make in each sermon. They were educators. They were entertainers. But above all "They said a lovely mass", as my mother would say. Even though it was a Latin mass, it was measured, dignified and the invocation "Dominus vobiscum" felt like a prayer and a blessing. ' I cannot vouch for the spiritual side of Eureka Street but to me it does seem to embody those two qualities I have associated with the Jesuits all my life. They can be great educators and at the same time great entertainers in any media. Ad multos annos.

Uncle Pat | 15 March 2012  

Thank you Andrew. I,too, look forward to reading Eureka Street each morning. A helpful filter for my own reaction to much of the mainstream media. Great decision to go online. Your urgent reflection is way better than the knee-jerk reactions of most offerings. Keep on keeping us informed.

Heather Marshall | 15 March 2012  

Congratulations to Eureka Street on surviving - and thriving. It is admirable that while being Catholic it is also 'catholic' in dealing with a wide range of topics - and publishing a wide range of opinion.

Bob Corcoran | 15 March 2012  

Congratulations Andrew!! and thank you to the team on keeping reflective and alternative views on urgent issues. As a Catholic quite alarmed at the closed door (eyes and ears) of the Vatican I need Eureka's intelligent and courageous platform to give my voice and read many broad views.It is firstly through dialogue that we can embrace and understand others' plight and the internet is an amazing tool to be used for the universal good. It is thrilling to read views from remote communities neglected in mainstream media and I think you have helped highlight social justice in a powerful way.To be open and transparent is the only way to go in this global village we all live in. A wonderful effort in bringing change, and here's to many more years.xx

Catherine | 15 March 2012  

Congratulations Andrew on Eureka Street reaching its 'majority' but especially for your own steadfast and balanced contribution to Eureka Street over that time. In anticipation of another twenty-one years of fine Eureka publications, I look forward to some further exposition by you of the very worrying problem for all of us and that you highlight: "A particular challenge Eureka Street has had to negotiate is the polarisation of attitudes within the Catholic Church."

John Edwards | 15 March 2012  

Thank you to all at Eureka Street who, over the years, have deepened topicality through a diversity of perspectives, genres and reflections and a strong moral core.

Delia | 15 March 2012  

Andrew , I beg to differ ,it is yourself, Michael & Frank who "keep us honest" .For the most part we are Catholic & therefore diverse in our views & you wisely temper our maybe extreme views by gently moderating our comments .My families great mentor in the G S desert, Father Macguire oft said (in Latin )"Truth always stands in the middle ".Thank you .

John Kersh | 15 March 2012  

Grateful thanks to all the Eureka Street team over the years, and especially the present crop, and Andrew's thoughtful perspective on it all [as always]. Great appreciation from an ecumenical non-Catholic.

Robin Pryor | 15 March 2012  

Thanks for the article, the back issues and the continued publication of Eureka Street. And congratulations on doing it all for 21 years. Eureka Street has carved out a unique spot where different views are expressed in a spirit of critical but friendly commentary. For the non church going it represents a side of the church that is all too under-represented in the public life of the various denominations.

RFI Smith | 15 March 2012  

As I reach out for my iPhone and coffee this morning, I tap my way to emails and first up is Eureka Street. To quietly read and reflect on, at the beginning of my day, the writings of those who question and challenge me in how I engage each day with my world is good. Good to have a voice as well. To all the Eureka Street family I say thank-you. How exciting to tell the story of passionate people who planted the eureka seed... from earth to ether...and still maintaining the human connection. I look forward to reading past treasures. Thanks Andy. xx

Jo dallimore | 15 March 2012  

Congratulations to all at Eureka Street! Thank you for your significant contribution of substantive and thought-provoking news articles over 21 years.

Fiona Johnson | 15 March 2012  

Congratulations on the 'coming of age' of Eureka Street. In an increasingly imbalanced media playing field ES provides us with insights that are sadly diminishing in the nation's fourth estate. Your strident views and sober analysis of our political landscape always respect your readers' intelligence. Perhaps it'd be good thing if these views are available to the tabloid addicted masses. May you continue to prosper and remind us that we're still part of a civilised society. Bravo!

Alex Njoo | 15 March 2012  

Many, many thanks to Michael Kelly,SJ,, Morag Fraser and Ray Cassin who really got the show off the ground.

Bill Uren | 15 March 2012  

Ad multos annos.

Theo Verbeek | 15 March 2012  

Warmest congratulations and thanks to all at Eureka Street, Jesuit Publications and the wider Jesuit community -- past and present -- for helping to sustain so many of us, in hard copy and online, with nourishment for mind and spirit. In challenging times, you have been a thoughtful, generous presence. Warmest wishes for the future.

Mark Brolly | 15 March 2012  

I simply wish to add my congratulations to the many who like me look forward expectantly to articles that enlighten, challenge and provoke my thoughts. Eureka Street has been a blessing these last 21 years. Long may it continue.

Ern Azzopardi | 16 March 2012  

A special thanks & hearty congratulations from one of your faithful atheist readers; so good to get intelligent comments & articles. I suspect something like this does more for the church than a thousand lines of preaching. I no longer read newspapers & only read one other periodical as i am so upset by most of the media. I get most of my 'news' from ABC Radio National & the BBC. Eureka St is a good corrective to an otherwise largely left wing atheistic diet. I only have one regret; the fact that a good friend of mine,long deceased, who shared the print version with me, was not able to continue with it when it went on line as she refused to attempt to become computer literate.This is one of the sad results of growing old in this digital world, at least for some. Go well.

rosemary w | 16 March 2012  

Happy 21 st Birthday Eureka Street and many congratulations. Thank you to everyone who makes this great publication happen. Such a great diversity and great balance of topics and views, I love it!

ANNE | 17 March 2012  

Congratulations, also,from one of your atheist readers. I left the Catholic Church over 30 years ago, largely due to its attitudes towards gay people. However, I like the ever-reflective writing in "Eureka Street", particularly that provided by Andrew. Andrew for Pope, I say!

Douglas Cllifford | 18 March 2012  

Thank you Andrew and our Australian Jesuits. Please continue with the good work. John

John Jones | 19 March 2012  

I join with the many others in wishing Eureka Street a long life. I note among the contributors below are "an ecumenical non-catholic" and an "atheist". That is in part reassuring to see that it is not only so-called "progressive" catholics or those who pine for Vatican 2's spirit to be allowed to thrive who read Eureka Street. Do you have any research to indicate the diversity or otherwise of your readers' profiles/ demographics?

Dennis Green | 19 March 2012  

I'm just wondering why more Jesuits don't have the courage to use Eureka Street to put forward their views in supporting social justice. On the ABC's Q&A last week, Malcolm Turnbull referred to advice given to him by a priest on how to explain the existence of homosexuals, referring to the marriage debate. The priest said, 'If God didn't make Adam and Steve, then who did?' (A form of reality theology, I think) Why was the priest prepared to share his view with a wealthy politician friend but unwilling to stand up in public and be named saying the same thing?

AURELIUS | 20 March 2012  

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