Inside the Monitor, a culture of camaraderie – and a shared mission
Staff parties, shibboleths, and a dedication to being a 'real newspaper.'
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To its first editor, Archibald McLellan, the Monitor was to be "a paper which goes into the highways and byways of humanity and by its very character proclaims the potency of good to meet the seeming aggression of evil with a tangible proof of supremacy." This underlies not only the news but also the features – home, business, environment, sports, natural science, education, the arts, cartoons.Skip to next paragraph
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Occasionally, a variation of this high calling was put to use in relation to Christian Science shibboleths such as no smoking. Col. Evans Carlson, a World War II hero, said to the editor he was visiting, "I suppose it's all right to smoke here." "Oh, quite all right," said the editor. "Of course, nobody ever has."
That doesn't mean the whole staff was made up of Christian Scientists. As Mr. Canham wrote in "Commitment to Freedom," his 50th-anniversary book, "Nobody has given the paper more able, loyal, and effective service than the non-Christian Scientists who have worked for it down through the years." I still run into a minister, who recalls being a Monitor newsboy in days when a pool table was provided in a recreation room.
What hasn't changed – besides a proclivity for innovation – is the easy interaction among staffers of all stripes, the kind of camaraderie born of working with a clear mission. Employees used to walk downtown for lunch at a Greek restaurant. In recent years, another eatery option has been added – Quotes, in the Mary Baker Eddy Library building. Writers and editors made music together for parties in the newsroom or the composing room. The Monitor baseball team began almost as soon as the paper itself and flourished for decades. (Today it might be bowling at Kings in the Back Bay.)
It may not be because Paul S. Deland said never throw anything away, but I didn't throw away a mock front page from Dec. 16, 1958, with the two-inch-high headline: DELAND'S FIFTIETH. A photo shows President Eisenhower presenting an anniversary award to Mr. Deland, associate editor of The Christian Science Monitor, on board since the beginning.
Russia's Sputnik had come along in 1957. So a bit of doggerel on the apportionment of columns was entitled "Paul S(pace) Deland": "For even when space was tight as a drum/ He tried to see that we all had some./ He knew, you see, that fair is fair./ (A little hard on us who wanted more than our share.)"
That's one of the ways we had fun while making a point. One current Monitor editor, reading this, said "It's funny, the newsroom just recently wrote some lyrics and crooned for a departing editor. And we still issue those introspective internal memos, only now they're about exactly what a Monitor blog should be."
• Roderick Nordell joined the Monitor in 1948 and retired in 1993 as executive editor of World Monitor: The Christian Science Monitor Monthly. In between, he was a staff correspondent in New York, books editor, arts editor, assistant chief editorial writer, Home Forum editor, and features editor.