IF information in a new book from Yale University Press is correct, former Christian Science Monitor foreign correspondent Edmund Stevens withheld relevant information from his editors and thus his readers by not disclosing his membership in the Young Communist League and the American Communist Party. Mr. Stevens won the paper's first Pulitzer Prize in 1950.
If Stevens did join the party, whether as a youthful experiment, out of a deeper commitment to communism, or as a means of securing an exit visa for his family, the fact should not have been hidden.
Since its founding in 1908, The Christian Science Monitor has been committed to honesty in gathering, editing, and presenting the news. Reporters and editors at the Monitor are expected to represent the readers' interests alone and to bring no hidden loyalty or agenda to their work.
According to Russian documents, Stevens joined the Young Communist League in 1931, when he was 21 years old, and joined the American Communist Party in 1938. He worked in Moscow as a representative for the Cunard steamship line in 1934 and began his journalism career in 1938 as a Moscow freelancer for the Manchester Guardian.
In 1939, Stevens began contributing freelance stories to the Monitor, covering Moscow's takeover of the Baltic states and the start of the Finnish-Soviet War. After serving as a war correspondent in Ethiopia and North Africa, Stevens joined the paper's full-time staff in late 1942 and in December 1943 opened the Monitor's Moscow bureau. He left our staff in 1955 to become Look magazine's correspondent in Moscow.
Stevens's skill as a reporter was widely admired. His Monitor series ''This Is Russia -- Uncensored'' won a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 after being recommended for that honor by, among others, Leland Stowe, then foreign editor of the New York Times. Former Monitor Editor Erwin D. Canham described the series as ''factual and scathing.''
Stevens's services were sought by the largest news organizations of his time. After leaving the Monitor he reported for Look, Time, Newsday, The Saturday Evening Post, NBC Radio, and The Times of London.
Stevens's widow and son both say that if he joined the Communist Party in 1938, his decision may have been motivated by a desire to secure an exit visa for his Russian-born wife at a time when Stalin was on a killing spree.
Nina Stevens admits that in his college days, Ed was quite open about being a leftist. She also says that after seeing the Soviet Union first hand, all leftist sympathies were knocked out of him.
Monitor senior editors were aware of rumors about Stevens's coziness with Soviet authorities, which circulated in the years after he won the Pulitzer.
In 1963, Stevens and the Monitor talked about his rejoining the staff during a leave of absence from Time magazine. Monitor historical records indicate that Christian Science Publishing Society executives spoke to US intelligence officials seeking to assess the reliability of allegations that Stevens had communist sympathies. Government officials told the Monitor that neither Stevens nor his wife was a Communist.
That conclusion seemed to be supported by an earlier episode in which a high-level United States government intelligence official came to Stevens's aid. In 1954, former Office of Strategic Services (OSS) chief Maj. Gen. William J. (Wild Bill) Donovan helped persuade Maj. Max Corvo not to proceed with his plan to file a libel suit against the Monitor and Stevens. Major Corvo felt a Dec. 10, 1953, Monitor article by Stevens incorrectly implied Corvo was involved in a pro-Communist conspiracy in Italy. The OSS was the predecessor of the CIA.
The Monitor deeply regrets that, if the newly disclosed documents are correct, a valued colleague withheld information from his editors and readers.
The paper's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote: ''Honesty in every condition, under every circumstance, is the indispensable rule of obedience.'' This is the standard to which the Monitor remains committed.