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Monitor writers celebrate ‘unique’ moments

From crawling on the carpet with Ronald Reagan to sipping tea with the Che Guevara of Afghanistan, former staffers recount stories as the Monitor transitions to new formats.

(Page 2 of 13)



He gave the story a true Monitor dimension. Before hanging up, and after telling me he loathed the press, Jundi said, “While in Attica, I read The Christian Science Monitor every day. That’s why I spoke with you.”

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– Jim Bencivenga

THE GREAT GRATKE
In 1948, Monitor foreign editor Charles Gratke signed me on as a stringer in the Netherlands. One of my first assignments was the anticolonial uprising in Indonesia. A year later, Gratke was invited to join a Dutch-sponsored trip to Indonesia and offered to let me go instead. I urged him to make the trip. Returning from Indonesia, his plane crashed in India. All aboard, including Gratke, were killed.
The William the Silent journalism prize was established in their memory. I was the first winner, for a story in – where else? – Chuck Gratke’s paper.

One last word about Gratke, whom I had met in person only once, at the Monitor office in New York before my departure for the Netherlands. Somewhat nervous, I reached into my pocket for a cigarette, then became aware there were no ashtrays, then remembered that Christian Scientists don’t approve of smoking.

“All right if I smoke?” I asked.

“Yes, of course,” he said as I prepared to light up. “Of course, no one has.” I crammed the pack of cigarettes back in my pocket.

He was a great editor of a great newspaper.

– Daniel Schorr

52 WAYS TO PITCH A STORY
Memo request to managing editor Courtney Sheldon: Could I do a series on school boards?

Memo returned: Why?

My response: Ask your brother [who was on Scotia, N.Y., school board].

Memo returned: Do a good job.

Memo request to editor John Hughes: Could I do a 52-part series entitled: “52 ways to improve schools?”

Memo returned: Do you know 52 ways? Ha ha.

My return message: I know 51!

Memo to editor De Witt John: Could I do a series on vocational schooling?

Phone call return: Who cares? Isn’t one story enough?

My reply: More than 1 million teachers, more than 2 million students, every state and federal legislator.

The education beat – a natural for our church newspaper.

– Cynthia Parsons

OIL ON AFRICAN CANVAS
“Go to the Congo immediately. Follow the oil as it winds it way to Zambia around the embargo on Rhodesia. Report back.”

I’d joined the Monitor a few weeks earlier. I knew almost nothing about journalism, let alone about Africa. So off I went ... ignorance personified.