From the editor: The Monitor's next century
Our journalists will record the unfolding future with the same lens of clarity and hope.
My assignment is to focus on the Monitor's future. It would be fun to imagine a holographic Monitor with news reports lasered in from our bureaus around Alpha Centauri. I might mention the occasional Op-Ed pieces by Wookies and Klingons.Skip to next paragraph
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But really the future is a fog. And all that we have to guide us is our fog light.
For the Monitor, that light is the original mission statement – "to injure no man but to bless all mankind" – that the Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, set forth. You can be excused for thinking that phrase is just boilerplate. Many publications have noble statements on the walls of their lobbies or flying from their mastheads. The founding father of one of my previous employers was a Civil War veteran known as "the colonel." One of his enshrined quotes proclaims the press the "artillery of democracy." I don't think more than a handful of employees even knew about the colonel's percussive vision. I don't recall editors asking, "How are we carrying out the 'artillery-of-democracy' mission in today's world?"
The Monitor is different. Not a day goes by that somebody in our Back Bay newsroom or in one of our far-flung bureaus doesn't ask whether a news story, a photo, a blog entry, or a headline is too snarky, injurious, invasive, or is mere infotainment. Does this injure no one? Is it constructive?
Monitor reporters and editors take our founder's words seriously.
As my predecessor, Richard Bergenheim, put it in a deeply considered essay in these pages in 2005: "Throughout its history, the Monitor has been blessed by a staff that has felt its mission deep in their hearts. Few people would ever work as hard, as long, as courageously, or faithfully as they do." They know, he said, that "when much in the media shows men and women at their worst, something is needed to honor the decency and courage and selflessness that surrounds us."
As in the Monitor's first century, so in its second.
How does the Monitor carry out its mission in the foggy years ahead? For a clue, it is necessary to look at the past.
Imagine it is 1908 and you are staring out at the young century, searching for what Tennyson called a “vision of the world and all the wonder that would be.” You would have lived in an era that still had gaslights and horse-drawn carriages, but a forward-looking individual would extrapolate from the new technologies of the day: the telephone, the airplane, electricity, the automobile.
Those inventions did indeed play a big part in our lives during the past century. What you would not have foreseen would have been TV, the Internet, the moon landing. Ahead would be jazz, Joni Mitchell, Andy Warhol, Robert Frost. Also: two world wars, the atomic bomb, Hitler, Stalin, AIDS. Could you have predicted Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., the United Nations, the Peace Corps?