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Our first century

A mandate to 'lighten' still drives the Monitor at the dawn of its second 100 years.

(Page 2 of 9)

The Monitor embraced new distribution methods and was often found on the leading edge of technology. This included using jet planes and satellites to speed delivery of the paper. In 1920, the Monitor joined several other papers to work on developing worldwide news distribution by radio. Former editor Erwin D. Canham took to the airwaves in 1950 with "Starring the Editors," one of the first weekend news-talk programs on TV. And in 1995, the Monitor began posting stories on the Internet, becoming one of the first news organizations to do so.

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There have been continual changes in the physical form of the paper (see accompanying timeline) as well as its design and content that reflected the distinct qualifications of the current editorial team and the unique times in which they operated. Last month, the Monitor announced it would be the first newspaper with a national audience to shift from a daily print format to an online publication that is updated continuously.

While its launch in 1908 was greeted by other newspapers with profound skepticism, the Monitor eventually won respect from journalistic peers including those seven Pulitzers (a delicious irony given Mrs. Eddy's dealings with Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper). Three Monitor editors were elected by their professional peers as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors – Mr. Canham, Mr. Hughes, and Katherine W. Fanning, the first woman to hold the title.

From the beginning, the Monitor has been the very public face of the Christian Science Church, a connection that Mrs. Eddy was vehement it should not hide. The Christian Science Board of Directors appoints the Monitor editor and approves the Monitor's editorials. Before the inaugural edition was printed, the Monitor's first editor, Archibald McLellan, tried to persuade the founder to change the paper's name, fearing a negative impact on sales. "God gave me this name and it remains," was her response.

Despite forthrightly proclaiming its link to a sometimes-controversial church, the Monitor has earned its stripes in academic, political, and diplomatic circles. When it was not yet 10 years old, its second editor, Frederick Dixon, met frequently with President Woodrow Wilson. Monitor editors Roscoe Drummond and Canham were notable for their access to subsequent American presidents. And Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton, as well as five vice presidents and countless other government officials, were guests at Monitor-sponsored Washington newsmaker breakfasts Godfrey Sperling Jr. launched in 1966. Some 3,600 such gatherings have been held so far.

While in many ways a remarkable journalistic success, the paper has almost always required a subsidy from church coffers. This phenomenon caused considerable concern among top officials of the Monitor's parent organization. Given its cost and prominence, it is not surprising that the Monitor has twice been at the center of major battles within the Christian Science Church.

Controversy aside, the Monitor inspired fierce love and devotion from its workers. One sign: In 100 years, the Monitor has never missed a scheduled day of production, a remarkable feat in the newspaper industry, where protracted strikes are common.