We’re an eclectic lot. We write about concerts, chooks and the impact of climate change. We track fairy wrens and red-browed finches. We extol the virtues of dirt roads, political activism and monks bringing peace and enlightenment. We write energetically on climate change and unpopular council decisions, shearwaters, dogs, nuclear power and black spot on apple trees. And more and more of us are contributing to, and reading, this unique little newspaper.
Eighteen months on, I want to say how proud I am to be associated with the Bass Coast Post.
The rewards are obvious. There’s the frisson of pleasure of seeing your story dressed up with a clever headline, a precede (I’ve only just learnt the name for that skilful little introduction that lures readers to your article) and strategically-placed colour photos.
But this doesn’t come for free. What you can’t help knowing is that quality matters. I try to write more simply, to be less pompous, more precise. I’m trying to better convey what it feels like to be the person I’m writing about.
What I value most is the sense that ideas matter, that shared opinions and enthusiasms matter and that our community is stronger for respecting these things.
I like to write about individuals who’ve done interesting things. There’s less joy in covering news stories and controversial issues. The challenge of being balanced, of giving equal weight to different points of view, the discipline involved in checking your own prejudices, is all a bit of a bother. I thought I’d written a splendid piece on a controversial issue once, until a biting letter of response exposed my skimpy focus and sloppy research.
Under the harshest and most demeaning of prison conditions, Nelson Mandela forged the means of liberation. Subjected to intolerable restrictions, he created democratic process. Mandela understood that negotiation is only possible if all parties share common ground, that the only way to achieve a just society was to establish the means by which all opinions could be freely heard and listened to. He understood that the enemy must feel respected, and therefore, not be his enemy.
On paper this all makes sense; this is admirable wisdom. In practice, these are awesome skills. By any measure, Mandela’s achievements were miraculous.
What I admire about the Bass Coast Post is the way it models democratic process for us. There’s the sense that this is democracy at work, with its rights and obligations and all its strengths and fragility. It’s a kind of incubator, an opportunity to develop real skills, an opportunity to practise these wisdoms and apply their disciplines.
It’s a place where we can all safely gather, on common ground.
Gill Heal was one of the Bass Coast Post’s first contributors.