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  ― 85 ―

North Queensland Journalism.

I HAVE the honour to be engaged on a N.Z. bush weekly in the capacity of sub-editor, reporter, compositor, war-correspondent, and book-keeper. I look after the dog-fights, the drought, missionary meetings, gigantic water-melons, and the Irish policy of the Government. Our journal was originally started to fill a yawning cavity in the Northern intellect, and the long-felt want of the district now is that we should stop for evermore. I have diligently endeavoured to discover the cause of our non-success, and have at last come to the conclusion that it may be accounted for in two ways. Firstly, we try to please everybody; secondly, no one buys the paper. Our proprietor is a clergyman, and he contributes a religious column weekly with a Scripture-text on top. His favourite quotation comes from somewhere in the New Testament, and reads: ‘All flesh is grass;’ but the printer's devil transposes it as often as not, and it generally appears in type: ‘All grass is fresh. As there is not a blade of anything green within ten miles of us this reads like wild sarcasm. It creates a prejudice against us, too, in the minds of the neighbouring squatters, who are mostly soured by misfortune, and they


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call in whenever they have an afternoon to spare, and allude to us casually as liars, and want to know where we are going when we die. Still, our religious column might prove a success were it not that it gets mixed up now and then with the sporting items, and then there is trouble. Our Christianity is obscured by cricket; our dogmas degenerate into dog-fights; and we think nothing of telling our readers that ‘He said: Saddle me the ass, and they saddled him, and he finally came in a good first, just beating Ben Bolt on the post by a neck, with Pirate two lengths in the rear.’ None of our readers can tell what our creed is now; it has been interspersed with billiards, and adulterated with aquatics, until we are unable ourselves to distinguish sculler Searle from the prophet Elijah, and our underproof doctrines won't go down with the soulless multitude. Our editor is an atheist, and says he is related to a viscount—though I do not mean to imply, even for a moment, that his connection with the peerage does the paper any harm; but he often forgets to put on his shirt and stockings before coming down to the office, and this weakness has gradually alienated the auctioneer at the corner, the chemist down the road, and the rest of the aristocracy, so that they withhold their support. Moreover, our respected chief's pants are short to the verge of indecency; his language is ‘frequent and painful and free;’ the extra twopence for manners was not paid when he got his education; and he generally smells like a billiard-room full of stale tobacco-smoke, with an opium-den next door. On Monday this great literary man starts a spree that lasts till Wednesday night, and then, on Thursday, he comes down and writes the leader for the next day's issue. The article commences invariably with a vicious attack on Prince Bismarck; the middle is filled up with extracts from last Sunday's sermon; and the disjointed moral at the end consists of a touching anecdote about the sagacity of dogs.


  ― 87 ―
And, unhappily, it is always the same dog, which makes things dreadfully monotonous. This brute was four years old when he first showed signs of superior intelligence; he has now seen fourteen summers, and the ravages of mange have given him that aspect of wisdom which always accompanies extreme baldness; but he is sagacious to the last. Moreover, the editor and the dog both write in the first person, so that nine o'clock on Friday morning invariably sees our stock of “I's” run out, and then “X's” are used instead. Our local column is chiefly devoted to the advancement of the district, and as it advocates the interests of a bush township, three gullies, a waterhole, and a deserted goldfield, the tension on the space is at times very severe. Then comes a long article against Gladstone, which was set up some two years ago, and has done duty as a literary Juggernaut until this day. The heading is altered weekly, and by this simple device it has served as a violent onslaught against almost every public man living; the only time when it did not fit was when we tried to level it at Milan Obrenovitch—‘from our own correspondent.’ The disaster occurred through the misguided ambition of our proprietor, who insisted on sticking in at random, here and there, such names as ‘Leschjanin,’ ‘Ranko Olimpisch,’ and the like, coupled with occasional references to the ‘Skuptschina,’ in order to make it appear as if evolved by deep and painful study. The printing machine broke down, however, beneath this load of Servian philology. The roller groaned as it passed over the orthographic corpse of a Belgrade hero; it baulked at Olimpisch; it cleared Leschjanin with a leap, as if that warrior had been a post-and-rail fence; and it brought up against the awful Skuptschina with a crash that reduced the whole machine to a hopeless wreck. The remaining column of the journal contains our principles, of which we have several. We support Lord Salisbury, the Australian Eleven, the deepening of the town well, sculler


  ― 88 ―
Searle, the Federal Council, the annexation of the New Hebrides, the £10,000,000 loan, the doctor at the local hospital, the opening of hotels on Sunday, and the Soudan Contingent; but the whole lot put together are not able to support us. We also deal tenderly with every religion, except Mormonism; and when we want to call a man a blackguard we do it in the correspondence column, and sign it ‘Pro Bono Publico.’ The compositors generally set up ‘bono’ as ‘bones,’ and transpose ‘publico’ into ‘public-house,' but that only adds a trifle to the cumulative agony of the situation. Altogether, the man who runs a bush journal in Queensland cannot be said to have struck melted grease in his choice of a vocation; and I write these lines in sorrow rather than anger as a warning to my brethren of the Press.

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