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.
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The rest of the world media were behind barriers at the gates of the prison.Skip to next paragraph
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When Mandela finally came walking down the prison warder’s driveway to the outside world, I rushed forward to shake his hand and was rewarded with a beaming smile.
– John Battersby
RUNNING INTO MANDELA ... AT THE MONITOR
On June 24, 1990, I emerged from the underground parking garage at the Christian Science Center in Boston to find three tall black men circling the reflecting pool. I stood completely still. As he saw me recognize him, Nelson Mandela broke into the most gracious smile and waved at me. He was on his first, historic trip to America. The day before, hundreds of thousands of people had turned out to see him on the Esplanade, along the Charles River, to celebrate his recent release from a South African prison. Now he said he wanted to see the place where that famous lady (Mary Baker Eddy) started her own religion as well as newspaper.
“Wait right here,” I said, too loudly. “I’m going to get the editor of the Monitor. He needs to meet you.” I sprinted to the newsroom and told Dick Cattani to come downstairs, come meet Mandela. He insisted on putting on a jacket. It was Sunday, and he was dressed casually. I pulled him by the arm as he slipped into his blue and white pinstriped seersucker jacket. He gave Mandela a tour of The Mother Church, as well as a copy of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” (by Eddy), which Mandela insisted he sign. He mentioned during the visit that the Monitor was the only international paper he had been allowed to read in prison, although major parts were redacted. He marveled that a woman not only started this paper but this religion, noting it could only happen in the US.
– Faye Bowers
THREE MILE ISLAND: THEY’D RATHER BE WAR REPORTING
In the spring of 1979, nature imitated art ... in a big way. Three weeks after the Jane Fonda movie “China Syndrome” opened, the nation was galvanized by reports of a real accident at the Three Mile Island power station in rural Pennsylvania. Because I’d covered nuclear safety issues for the Monitor, I got the assignment. When I arrived at the small town near the stricken reactor, it was nearly a ghost town. By contrast, the high school gymnasium that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was using as an information center seethed with hundreds of reporters and cameramen from around the country. The depth of fear the accident created was revealed by the confessions of several of the reporters who had been war correspondents: They said that they were more fearful during this assignment than they had been when reporting from a war zone!
It soon became clear that the NRC officials were telling the media as little as possible. So I retired to my hotel room and my files. There I found a scientific paper speculating on the impact that the first major nuclear accident would have on American public opinion. The authors predicted that it could strengthen public support for nuclear power if it was well handled and no one was killed, but it would likely weaken public support if it were poorly handled and people died. I got the study’s lead author, Robert Kates of Clark University, on the phone. After interviewing him and several other experts, I wrote one of my best stories.