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In conversation with Ray Cassin

As part of the 30th anniversary of Eureka Street, I’ve been speaking with the team who first started the publication in 1991, alongside various people who have played a part in the Eureka Street story.

A journalist by trade, Ray Cassin was a part of Jesuit Publications from 1989–95, and had a foundational role in the creation of Eureka Street. Ray was production editor, ‘Quixote’ columnist, and a regular reviewer of films and books. And he snagged the fledgling magazine a Walkley Award. 

It was a providential meeting with Michael Kelly SJ in 1989 that led to a discussion around starting a magazine. ‘I was at a point in my career where I was looking for something a bit different,’ Ray says, ‘trying to bring together my trade skills, my intellectual interests and my faith.’

He describes 1990 as being a year of preparation, laying the groundwork for what would become Eureka Street. ‘There were some strong disagreements about perhaps how secular a magazine it should be. A difference in the style of engagement with the world, if I can put it that way.’  

Once the publication began, Eureka Street provided opportunities to do the journalistic work with the magazine format presenting new opportunities for creativity. ‘And because the magazine format had a bit more flexibility than what I was doing with newspapers, I was able to indulge myself sometimes and occasionally come up with headlines people thought were witty.’

It’s Ray Cassin’s flair for wordplay that won a Walkley Award for three headlines in 1994 for entries published in Eureka Street. They were: ‘The Rite Stuff’, ‘The odd angry Schacht’ and ‘Shakin’ All Over’. The citation read: ‘Derived from book, film or song titles, the judges considered Ray Cassin’s sharp, clever headings to be far and away the best submitted.’

According to former Eureka Street editor Morag Fraser, Ray Cassin is the finest headline writer she's ever worked with and one of the best copy editors, praising Cassin's deft use of an editor's scalpel, being able to nimbly slice four hundred words from any 1200-word piece without compromising its integrity.   

Ray notes that it’s remarkable to see that Eureka Street has survived for 30 years and has been around long enough to have a transition to digital.  ‘We knew what a novel thing it was in Australia, this kind of publication. There had been some forerunners, many years ago.’ He mentions Jesuit publication Twentieth Century as one of Eureka Street’s predecessors. ‘But it was nowhere near as open to different intellectual currents as Eureka Street.’

‘Dialogue is a bit of a jargon word but that described what everyone who was involved in the initial conception of the magazine wanted. It brought together different perspectives from different writers. Eureka Street brought all of that together in a way that no other publication was doing in the 90s. And there was a great flow of ideas out of the magazine, too, because other media often picked up stories that Eureka Street published.’   

According to Ray, one of the elements that ensured Eureka Street’s early success was ‘extremely erudite people’ writing for a broad readership in way that was accessible, ‘without being abstruse or obscure, and certainly not patronising’.

‘It became a magnet for people.’

In the years following Eureka Street, Ray was chief leader writer, opinion editor, and editor of The Age Review for 16 years. He’s been an adjunct research fellow for Swinburne University’s Institute for Social Research and re-joined the team at Eureka Street as a contributing editor in 2013. For the last eight years, Cassin has been a speechwriter for Senator Kim Carr.      

 

 

View more Eureka Street 30th anniversary interviews on our YouTube channel.  

You can support the work of Eureka Street by donating here. Your donation helps us keep Eureka Street free and open; it allows us pay the contributors, and most importantly it ensures that the unique and values-based content that we offer remains available to all.

 

David Halliday is editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: David Halliday, Ray Cassin, Eureka Street

 

 

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