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Judging Eureka Street

  • 14 September 2015

After almost ten years, I'm into my final week as editor of Eureka Street. It's pleasing that we were successful in the Australasian Catholic Press Association 'industry' awards announced in Broome on Thursday evening, where we were named Best Online Publication and Publication of the Year for 2015. The images in the slide show on this page tell their own story.

But industry awards provide one judgment, and positive and negative reader reaction through article comments and direct communication can give more sobering feedback. Our readers rightly expect a lot of us and are often surprised to learn that our magazine staff currently adds up to roughly the equivalent of one full-time person.

Our 'unique visitor' internet statistics have always been encouraging, though it is becoming more difficult to sustain a regular rise in readership in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Subscriptions to our daily and weekly email newsletter tend to be stagnant at a time when vastly increased numbers of readers are accessing our articles through Facebook and Twitter.

These new pathways have encouraged readers to consume individual articles on the basis of merit and recommendations, rather than taking the magazine as a package. We are lucky to have writers such as Frank Brennan and Andrew Hamilton, whose names draw readers to our magazine. Increasingly this is also the case for some of our younger writers such as Ellena Savage, who started with us as an intern.

Today there is generally less loyalty to media mastheads than there used to be, although the enthusiastic and generous response to our Winter and Christmas raffles would seem to belie that reality. Our readers did not take to our early attempt to erect a paywall but, in addition to the raffles, have shown their willingness to support us through donations.

Finally it is our own judgment of our work that is perhaps the most important, certainly in light of Pope Francis' signature utterance 'Who am I to judge [others]?' Self-reflection that incorporates a process of 'discernment' of deeper and more fruitful realities is also an important part of the Ignatian or Jesuit tradition to which Eureka Street belongs.

Next week I will have some thoughts on the particular genre of people-centred journalism that we have arrived at after making a few mis-steps. I've come to see what we do as a departure from the Anglo-Saxon tradition of journalistic objectivity and have settled on the label 'journalism of empathy'.

Michael Mullins