Where We're Going ...

From remarks by Monitor editor Richard J. Cattani on the Monitor's receipt of the Distinguished Service Award from the International Communication Division of the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication in Boston on Aug. 8.THEMES for self-improvement are infinite. But three appropriate to The Christian Science Monitor today are universality, diversity, and innovation. Over the decades in this century, newspapers changed little; they operated by tradition. Now rapid change makes governing concepts crucial. "Editor" is derived from the Latin edere: to set forth, publish. This suggests expansive, affirmative activity. One wonders how "editing" came to suggest cutting back, picking burrs from copy. We read about the journalism of fact, of opinion, of entertainment, of fiction. The Monitor represents the journalism of ideas. This is the direction all journalism must go. News, as a first telling of what happens, has been devalued. It is, like oxygen, everywhere. It is content - the ideas, the integrity, the balance of treatment - that marks successful publication. News has energy. It affects, attracts. Newspapers should center on the news. They should report the creative process of our times - in politics, economics, the arts. They should report the news that makes history - which implies context, analysis, and a conceptual framework. The Monitor aspires to be an active, informing, educating, healing presence in the community of world thought. To do so, it has more recently taken magazine, radio, and television forms - the latest the launch of the Monitor Channel, a national cable programming operation. These are correlative vehicles for engaging world thought. THE Monitor covers civilization, not just government news. Government news is important, because governments are the way peoples organize themselves. Government in the US society is only one of many institutions. Others are universities, industries, churches. Should government falter, these help carry the load. The media should welcome diversity - diversity of peoples and cultures and interests. Editors, with wide powers of decision, should stretch readers' awareness. What is a publication's sense of its community? At the Monitor we try to cover all the peoples of the world that we can get to. Officials and people abroad know the Monitor does not forget them just because they haven't had a typhoon, a government collapse, or a terrorist incident lately. We have at the moment bureaus in 17 countries abroad, and another eight in the US. At a time of retreat from international coverage - and from national and local coverage as well - we are, if anything, widening our own reporting of the world. The Monitor launched a burst of innovation when it went to computer, electronics-based production in January 1989. A major byproduct of this change was that that four-color printing became possible. Suddenly our file of over 1 million black-and-white photos was obsolete. We had to create a new color file on the run. We sent our photographers out to the most crucial sites. Meanwhile, we had to use pictures from the photo agencies. We found our pages carrying images of heads of state, marching troops, guns, disasters. Was that us? The images we print, we reasoned, reflect with whom we identify: Are we journalistic Brahmins who cover the elites? Or are we "out there" with the citizens we cover? At once the faces of humanity from everywhere began to dominate the paper. Changes in international journalism are requiring further innovation. News does not flow constantly from any point 12 months of the year. Shorter reporting stints, of one to three months, may prove more useful in certain locations, in addition to fixed bureaus. These require only a laptop computer and a modem. This approach worked well for us during the Gulf war. PUBLICATION is like a ship getting under way. A newspaper, like any bureaucracy, would just sit there in the water if you let it. Every now and then a publication puts into port for a new rigging. The 1989 switch to a full-color format produced on desktop computers put us at the leading edge in photographic and art reproduction. The technology was new and demanding, but today the computers give us greater control of what we present. A useful journalistic concept is contained in the statement: "The story is where I am." In a world of instant communication, where is the privileged vantage point? Why not Pittsburgh? We have a writer based in Pittsburgh, and not long ago, a conference on global telecommunications was held there. It was a global story, and our reporter covered it that way. The Monitor has readers in nearly every US zip-code zone and every country abroad. Every point in the world is equally important to the person standing on it. This introduces another term we use: "the universal assignment." Every writer is considered available for writing for the whole paper. Writers have areas of expertise. But the paper's bureau resources should extend to the cultural, justice, science sections. The entire paper, not just the news section, should be a world paper. In staffing, we follow the precept: "Go with those who want to work for the Monitor." The Monitor is an enabling institution. None of us, alone, could swim around the world. The Monitor carries us. We are grateful for the readers everywhere who make this privileged journey possible.

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