BOSTON — Richard C. Bergenheim, former editor in chief of The Christian Science Publishing Society, has been chosen to succeed Paul Van Slambrouck as editor of The Christian Science Monitor on May 15.
The change was announced Tuesday at a newsroom meeting by Mary Trammell, who chairs the Christian Science Board of Directors. The board acts as publisher of the Monitor.
Mr. Bergenheim served from 1988 to 1994 as a member of the board of directors. In his board assignment as editor in chief, Bergenheim worked closely with the editor of the paper and of Monitor Radio in setting strategy and overseeing editorial quality.
"Richard's passion for the news, spiritual strength, and wide-ranging curiosity will be enormously helpful in dealing with the challenges facing the newspaper industry in general and our paper in particular," Ms. Trammell said. "He shares our conviction that The Christian Science Monitor has an essential place in the church Mary Baker Eddy founded. As a former board member and editor in chief of The Christian Science Publishing Society, he brings a unique perspective to the Monitor editor's office. My colleagues and I look forward to working closely with him to ensure the Monitor remains a vital force in journalism in the years ahead."
Mr. Van Slambrouck has been the Monitor's editor since July 2001. During his tenure, the Monitor won a Pulitzer Prize and experienced a major expansion in the size of the audience for its website, csmonitor.com. Van Slambrouck joined the paper as a local reporter in 1976 and has served as Houston bureau chief, Johannesburg bureau chief, and international news editor.
He will be returning to San Francisco and has been asked to serve as one of the Monitor's senior editors and to write regularly, drawing on his wide knowledge of international affairs and the impact of technology on society.
"Paul was an immensely skillful steward of the Monitor during a remarkably eventful period in world history. We will always be grateful for how he rallied the staff to cover the challenging events of 9/11 and the ongoing war in Iraq. We are proud of how the Monitor was able to bring distinctive coverage to such major events. Paul brought strength, poise, and fierce devotion to the Monitor's mission," said board chair Trammell.
"I thank the board for the opportunity to have served this great paper as editor. The Monitor is a special place, filled with special people that have made these four years unforgettable," said Van Slambrouck.
Bergenheim began his remarks to the staff by saying that, "because of the severe challenges the paper faces at times, people are tempted to fear that it will not survive." But he argued that those concerns are unfounded, given "the continuing need for a paper that takes as its mission to keep its readers well informed and to alleviate the fears and pains and despair that afflict so many in the world today. The Monitor has an essential role to play in this computerized age. We have no doubt that it has a significant future ahead of it."
Bergenheim said that in mapping the Monitor's future, "our goal is to step out from the herd, and give the details, the insight, and background needed so that readers can draw their own conclusions."
Turning to the Monitor's finances, Bergenheim said, "The Monitor cannot go it alone. The paper needs its readers, subscribers, and advertisers, and it needs their efforts to expand its universe of readers, subscribers, and advertisers" to improve the paper's financial health.
The Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society have announced a goal of eliminating the society's need for a subsidy from the church's general fund by 2008.
In the Monitor's new budget year, which began May 1, there will be a reallocation of funds between editorial and publishing. There will be a reduction in editorial staff to permit the publisher to devote efforts to marketing to rebuild the paper's circulation. The staff reductions will be between 10 to 15 editorial positions. The Monitor currently has an editorial staff of 102 and a publishing staff of 26.
"The Monitor is blessed by a staff that feels its mission deep in their hearts," Bergenheim said. "Our debt to them is enormous." Bergenheim pledged to handle staff reductions in as fair and compassionate a manner as possible. The staff changes are expected to be finished by July 1.
Paul Bermel, manager of The Christian Science Publishing Society, says this will enable the Monitor to augment its operations in the coming year by the addition of a new head of advertising sales and a new director of business development, among other positions, to strengthen its financial base. This new effort will be led by Jonathan D. Wells, who was named managing publisher of the Monitor, effective immediately. Wells, who had served as director of business development and electronic publishing for the Monitor, replaces Stephen T. Gray, who served as managing publisher since 1997.
"We are grateful to Steve Gray for his accomplishments and contribution to the Monitor, Mr. Bermel said. "Steve worked tirelessly to build the Monitor's visibility and stature. During his tenure there was tremendous growth in website traffic, syndication distribution, and appearances by Monitor reporters on major broadcast outlets," Bermel added.
Bermel said that he hoped that further reductions in the paper's operating deficit could be achieved through increased revenue.
Bergenheim grew up in a Monitor family. He is the son of former Monitor reporter Robert Bergenheim who covered Boston's City Hall for the paper in the 1950s. The elder Bergenheim won a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University and went on to become manager of The Christian Science Publishing Society. Later he was publisher of the Boston Herald and started the Boston Business Journal.
The Monitor's new editor has been a Christian Science practitioner since 1974 and has taught classes on the religion since 1982. Most recent Monitor editors have been drawn from the ranks of the newspaper's staff. However, DeWitt John, the Monitor's editor from 1964 to 1970, was a Christian Science teacher who had previously held top administrative posts at the church. During Mr. John's term as editor, the Monitor won Pulitzer Prizes in 1967, 1968, and 1969.
Bergenheim is a 1970 graduate of Principia College in Elsah, Ill., and has a master's degree from the Shakespeare Institute at England's University of Birmingham. He worked briefly for the Monitor during the late 1960s. Since leaving the church board in 1994, Bergenheim has been living in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Ottsville, Pa.