My first full-time office job was with Cosmos Media; I started as a trepid grad in March 2008. Filled with highly educated, literary writers and designers from diverse backgrounds, the office teetered constantly on the edge of debate.
From the philosophy of knowledge and Plato’s allegory of the cave to whether one should limit their use of toilet paper for sustainability reasons, these good-humoured and passionate debates would explode at some point during the day and at 5:30pm would often continue out the door and down to the pub. If there is such a thing as the office lottery, I thought I’d won it.
The office was like this every day. Except Thursday.
Thursdays would begin like any other day: sporadic conversation would rock and lull about the office, like a sailboat at sea and in want of a breeze. A passing comment or a news story would begin to stir someone, a flicker of passion would cross their face.
But before any debate could begin, before any raised voices could echo though the stylish warehouse office in inner Sydney, someone or other would glare at the offender. “Shh!” they’d hiss. Our voices would drop and we’d all whisper to one another, ominously: “It’s newsletter day.” Back then, COSMOS Update was laboriously put together in a seemingly unending string of HTML, where a single interruption and lost train of thought could lead to a load of additional work.
Since its inception on 31 August 2006, COSMOS Update has been churned out every Thursday by the COSMOS online editor. And it is with sadness that today, its 324th issue, I will send the last one.
There are several reasons for this. Partly, we are seeing a changing digital landscape – where communications are rapidly shifting to social media and other platforms. In an era where even Facebook is increasingly passé, the future of digital media will not be found in email.
But I appreciate that some of you might still want to receive science updates through your email. I can recommend ABC Science Online’s Science Updates, which has a broad spread of science news from around the world as well as audio from ABC Radio National, the monthly CSIRO Snapshot which gives in-depth reports at the work done by Australia’s national science agency and the Australian Geographic Newsletter, which is more narrative-driven, magazine-style articles, and has a strong Australian slant.
Also, two weeks ago, big changes were announced at COSMOS. Two of the magazine’s four founders, CEO Kylie Ahern and Editor Wilson da Silva, sold their portion of the business to the other two founders, Alan Finkel, Melbourne entrepreneur and chancellor of Monash University, and Elizabeth Finkel, contributing editor and award-winning science writer. This will see several changes across the company, including moving operations to Melbourne. As we focus on a seamless transition, we needed to put time into other areas of production.
The COSMOS Update has seen a few twists and turns along the way. From 29 September 2007, the online editor wrote a mini-editorial for the Update, called In Focus. This was one of the most popular parts of the Update, and would eventually evolve into the blogs section of COSMOS Online. We used the Update’s editorial to discuss trends we were witnessing across science and science reporting, important developments in science, and, well, as a way to mouth off about a topic that we wouldn’t ordinarily publish in the magazine or on the website. Headline rules were relaxed and we had fun with them: “Sorry about the whole genocide thing” (Wilson da Silva, May 2011), “Congratulations, you survived Valentine’s Day” (Becky Crew, February 2012) and “The ‘C’ word” (Jacqui Hayes, 23 July 2010).
Most notable, though, was the fourfold increase in the number of subscribers after COSMOS Media ran Hello From Earth in August 2009. In an intense 13-day project, COSMOS collected messages from the public, which were then beamed to the nearest Earth-like planet by NASA. Many of the participants chose to receive the weekly COSMOS Update.
So to those who joined us in the beginning, those who joined us during Hello From Earth and those who joined us somewhere in between, thanks for coming on the journey with us. So long, and I hope to see you out there again, somewhere in the cosmos.