In Melbourne, an Enchanting Hyperlocal Paper for the Digital Age


The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. This week’s issue is written by Natasha Frost, a reporter based in Melbourne.

In August 1972, a collective of writers, mostly in Melbourne, released the first issue of a biweekly broadsheet that would chronicle a certain corner of Australian countercultural life — starting with a scathing piece on the “young press baron” Rupert Murdoch.

Over a run of about 40 months, The Digger newspaper featured fervent opinion columns, extended reviews and cultural listings, as well as what it described as “gonzo accounts” of Australian life. It touched on topics including sex education, Aboriginal rights, republicanism (“It’s time we chucked the Queen of Oz and her GG,” an abbreviation for governor general, “into the sea”) and the joys of riding a bike.

The paper was connected with some of the most important names in Australian literature of the time, and it played a significant role in starting the Australian novelist Helen Garner’s career as a writer. (The Digger folded in 1975 when, as the founder Phillip Frazer wrote in 2018, it “ran out of money and lawyers.”)

Five decades later, another Australian publication is channeling some of that same irreverent spirit and commitment to, as its editors put it, “reportage.”

The Paris End is a longform Substack newsletter started around a year ago by the writers Cameron Hurst, Sally Olds and Oscar Schwartz, whose ages run from about 25 to about 35. (Mr. Schwartz has previously contributed to The New York Times.)

The newsletter is named for the local nickname for the eastern end of Collins Street in downtown Melbourne — once home to the city’s artistic community, and today the site of luxury hotels and glitzy international fashion boutiques. (The newsletter does not exclusively, or even primarily, trade in stories from that part of town.)

The area is “a soulless pastiche of a high-end part of any city,” Ms. Olds said over coffee in Melbourne. “It’s such a strange part of the city, with such ideas about itself. So that’s a really fun space to write into.”

“It’s a ridiculous thing to call it,” Mr. Schwartz added. “If you have to call something the ‘Paris end’ of your city, then you’re not Paris.”

The Paris End does not aim to mimic any particular publication. But it does share some DNA with earlier iterations of The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town,” with style inspiration from Ms. Garner (herself a reader of The Paris End) and the Ukrainian-born Brazilian novelist and writer Clarice Lispector.

Its readership is kept secret, though it is in the order of “thousands,” Mr. Schwartz said. He describes it as the “Darwin,” Australia’s eighth-largest city, “of newsletters.”

At least anecdotally, its impact among Melburnians looms large. Earlier this year, I made a special pilgrimage to purchase panettone from a small Italian cake shop that The Paris End had recommended — only to be served the same panettone by a friend two nights later, who had made an identical trip after reading the same tip.

On occasions when I have forwarded a favorite article, I have almost always been told that the recipient has read it already. Those included features on the “male lesbian” community, a 1966 U.F.O. sighting in Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs and a recent academic conference about “Antipodean Modernism.”

“The Stars,” a monthly review column, gives ratings to a hodgepodge of things — cultural phenomena such as films local and international; the best legal and illegal nude swimming spots; mackerel dumplings; where Melburnians should spend winter (Bali) or play summer night tennis (Carlton). It is sometimes unabashedly niche, celebrating not just a scene, but a scene within a scene.

During the worst part of the pandemic, Melbourne spent over 260 days in lockdown, and the return to normality has been slow and painful.

“We really went through it,” Ms. Olds said. “For me, it’s kind of a project of hyping the city up — for myself, wanting to re-enchant the city.”

Here are the week’s stories.



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