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Difference Maker

Richard Bergenheim: an appreciation

As editor, he brought spiritual strength, compassion, and an omnivorous appetite for news.

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During Jill's captivity, Richard wheedled information out of often-warring US government agencies, negotiated with international celebrity journalists who claimed to know influential Iraqi sheikhs, upgraded the security provided to Monitor correspondents, and dealt with constant media attention.

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"He was the steward of the decency and global engagement that the Monitor showed when the whole world was watching," said managing editor Marshall Ingwerson, a key ally in the battle to win Jill's freedom.

"Richard's strength and compassion will be missed," said Monitor editor John Yemma. "I will also miss his advice and counsel, which I had hoped to rely on. I shall try to honor Richard by embracing the qualities that he exemplified."

The Monitor's managing publisher, Jonathan Wells, cited Richard's "example of calm resolve in the face of difficulties, and unwavering expectation of progress."

Richard's contributions to the Monitor went well beyond crisis management.

He brought unstinting enthusiasm to daily operations, driven by an omnivorous appetite for news. He led a redesign of the daily paper. He redefined the feature sections. He demanded that every issue carry at least one story about people making a difference to improve the world, echoing Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy's call that her newspaper "bless all mankind." He helped guide the development of prototypes for a potential weekly print product.

Perhaps most significant, Richard was a relentless evangelist for concentrating on digital content and delivery as the Monitor's future. This Web-first focus was on view in an opinion piece he wrote his first month as editor, calling the 1-to-2 million readers who visited csmonitor.com each month "probably the most significant development in the history of the Monitor."

Richard was ideally positioned as a change agent since his credentials as a devoted student of Mrs. Eddy's teachings were beyond question. After a brief stint as a high school English teacher, Richard spent decades as a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science healing.

Richard knew there was considerable skepticism in the newsroom when he was named editor, given his limited hands-on journalism experience.

The newsroom's skepticism gave way to affection and respect. A recent surprise party in his honor was the most elaborate and emotional newsroom farewell for a Monitor editor in more than 40 years. Staffers serenaded him with lyrics about his intensive management style and showed a video of memorable Bergenheim moments. The outgoing editor wiped away tears.

Part of Richard's charm was a wry, impish sense of humor about many things, including his own foibles and career path. Alluding to the extensive travel requirements of his new job, he ended an e-mail last week, "yours with suitcase in hand."

Richard liked travel because he loved humanity. In June, he told a group of college students, "Think of the world as filled with friends. We don't let our friends be in trouble without trying to figure out how to help them. We care. And part of what the Monitor exists to do is increase the caring capacity of our hearts."

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