New Monitor service: Web discussions among readers

A new Monitor service starts today that is designed to help build a greater sense of community among Monitor readers.

Since the paper's founding, Monitor writers and editors have talked to readers through the columns of the paper. And readers have talked to us - first through letters and phone calls, and now via e-mail, too.

What has been missing was a way for individual members of the Monitor reader family to talk directly with each other about topics in the paper. This means of direct connection is what our Monitor Talk feature provides.

Monitor Talk is an area of our Web site (www.csmonitor.com) designed especially for the community of Monitor readers. It's a place to exchange ideas and engage in intelligent, lively conversation.

Why talk to other Monitor readers? Because of the kind of people they are.

Our first editor, Archibald McLellan, described the Monitor's target audience as "good men and women everywhere who are interested in the betterment of all human conditions and the moral and spiritual advancement of the race."

Mr. McLellan was right. Monitor readers are a remarkable group. They care intensely about their world. They want to make a difference. They drink in stories about the foreign and the familiar. Many of them want to participate in this paper's unselfish purpose of blessing all mankind.

Through Monitor Talk, you can talk with fellow Monitor readers about politics, global issues, society and culture, books and reading, arts and leisure, science and technology, and education and kids.

You can either join in one of many ongoing conversations or start your own. You have the option of talking about Monitor stories or many other subjects that matter to you.

You can share your opinions on what is going on in the world or get ideas from others about what's going on in their homes and communities.

Starting today, we are sending readers of the daily paper "invitations" to participate in Monitor Talk, which has been in pilot operation for several months. You will notice that selected stories in the editorial, opinion, and feature sections of the paper will now carry a Monitor Talk icon. This is your signal that a new discussion is under way in Monitor Talk on that story's subject, and you are welcome to join in.

For example, in today's Homefront section cover story (page 11), you will see that you can go online to discuss your experiences in money management.

The stories marked each day will be chosen because they particularly invite an exchange of opinions, encourage personal remarks, or bring up global or local issues that are in need of solutions.

Rather than a live chat room, the discussions in Monitor Talk are made up of messages posted on a virtual bulletin board. An online host who is well versed in the topic being discussed moderates each of the forums.

Who are the online hosts? Most are on the staff here at the Monitor. They participate by sharing perspectives, by helping to keep the conversation running smoothly, and by ensuring that topics and conversation meet Monitor standards for civility.

How does this work? To be a part of Monitor Talk, just point your Web browser to the Monitor's homepage at www.csmonitor.com and click on the Monitor Talk button on the left side of the page. From there, you can take part in any of the highlighted discussions based on this week's Monitor stories.

You can read the conversations as a guest. If you wish to join in, you will be asked to go through a quick registration process to obtain a log-in name and password.

You should find plenty of company. Monitor Talk has already attracted more than 1,000 registered users.

Discussions with fellow readers are just the beginning. In the near future, we plan to expand Monitor Talk to include online discussions with Monitor reporters and editors. We will also invite other individuals with especially interesting ideas to talk online with our readers.

We invite your comments on the Monitor's expanding relationship with readers. We welcome letters, or you can contact me at cook@csmonitor.com. Or just log on to the "About the Monitor" forum at Monitor Talk and join the conversation there.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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