What the Monitor Strives to Do For Readers

Ninety years ago today, the first issue of The Christian Science Monitor came thundering off brand new presses in the basement of a building at 107 Falmouth Street in Boston.

Just over 100 days earlier, Mary Baker Eddy told startled officers of her church to "start a daily newspaper and do it at once."

On the overcast day when the 12-page first edition was delivered to her home just outside Boston, Mrs. Eddy said, "This in truth is the lightest of all days, this is the day our daily newspaper goes forth to lighten mankind." So began the remarkable journalistic saga we commemorate with this anniversary edition.

Today, when the newspaper business is struggling to hold readers and ward off a tide of sleaze, the Monitor's continuing mandate to lighten - to shed light upon, to relieve cares or woes - sets forth values unique in the world of journalism.

To mark the paper's 90th anniversary, we are presenting a variety of perspectives on what Earl Foell's page 1 story calls the "triumphant and tragic course" of the 20th century. We also are delighted to share a small sampling of the best work from our past.

Sifting through the century and this paper's role in it triggers an immense appreciation for the talent and selfless dedication of Monitor employees who went before us. We are equally grateful for the staunch support of loyal subscribers - including some who have been on the rolls continuously for more than 50 years - who have stood by Mrs. Eddy's beloved paper through sunshine and storm.

While grateful for the Monitor's past, we are focused on its future. In this space, we want to share something of our vision of the role we want the Monitor to play in readers' lives. Our relationship with readers is based on shared goals or values.

News organizations are driven by the values they bring to the decision of what is important in the world and how reporters should cover it. The Monitor's distinct voice is a direct result of the powerful mandates set forth for Monitor journalism by Mrs. Eddy.

In her lead editorial reprinted above, Mrs. Eddy set the Monitor on a path of unselfish public service through journalism. That is a major part of what the paper's founder meant when she said the Monitor should, "injure no man but ... bless all mankind."

Another value we cherish is journalism that exhibits - spreads - the finest qualities. Mrs. Eddy wanted Monitor journalism to be characterized by qualities such as justice, mercy, fairness, and purity. To her, they were laws of God the paper was "to spread undivided."

No denomination owns justice, mercy, fairness, and purity. They have universal appeal. So from its first issue, the Monitor has drawn readers from all religious and economic backgrounds who respond to the nature of our journalism. In a recent focus group, for example, a medical doctor told us his local paper contained more news of violence and sex than he thought was healthy for his children. So he subscribed to the Monitor and stopping taking his local paper.

Today, three quarters of our readers are not members of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, which owns this paper. Over our 90-year history, important contributions - and three of our six Pulitzer Prizes - have come from journalists who loved the Monitor's unique approach but were not members of the church that publishes it.

In 1908, the Monitor was virtually alone in seeking to serve an audience dispersed across the US and overseas. Now there are several high quality national papers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. All are published by corporations whose financial resources far outstrip ours.

A reporter recently asked us why anyone should subscribe to our paper when a person could get the national edition of one of our well-funded journalistic brethren. It is a thought provoking question.

What, specifically, are we offering that can't be found elsewhere? It is a matter of our approach to journalism. The Monitor strives to prove its utility by:

Gathering and reporting the news in a manner that never injures but always seeks to help those it covers while offering an unflinchingly honest view of the world. The Monitor seeks to provide balance, fairness, and insight in every story but without the tone of personal attack that sometimes creeps into the columns of other papers.

Providing coverage whose compassion and concern reach around the globe with a focus not just on policies but on the lives of individuals. In January, the Monitor will add an office in New Delhi, bringing the total number of international bureaus to 12. The Monitor devotes a higher proportion of its editorial resources to what mankind is doing outside the US than any other North American paper.

Showing respect for readers by taking special care what we bring into their homes. While there is no subject the Monitor cannot treat, language and images are edited for an audience in the home.

Demonstrating in our writing that decency does not have to be dull - a journalistic meal of oat bran, spinach, and liver.

Operating on the conviction that no situation and no person is beyond hope. As a result, our correspondents are encouraged to seek solutions to the problems they uncover.

Valuing readers' time by offering reports that are concise as well as compelling.

Providing an independent journalistic voice at a time when most news organizations are part of larger corporate empires. This gives the Monitor an unusual degree of freedom to pursue the news without partiality or bias.

While we strive to achieve these goals in each issue, there is room for considerable modesty about our attainment of them. However, given the public's oft expressed desire for journalism that appeals to the best in us rather than the worst in us, the continuing need for the Monitor is undeniable.

We do not know what direction newspapers will take 25 years from now. However they change, content will matter most. The need for news reported with integrity, compassion, and hope will persist despite changes in technology. It is a need to which the Monitor will always respond.

David T. Cook, Editor

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