Anniversary issue marks 9 decades

Monitor, begun in 1908, was non-sensational alternative to 'yellow' newspapers.

Nov. 24 - Welcome to the 90th anniversary issue of The Christian Science Monitor. We hope you'll enjoy it.

To mark the occasion, the section of the paper you are reading is printed in the style of the first issue 90 years ago today. (See box, column six on this page.)

The first Monitor came off the presses in 1908, a day before Thanksgiving. The paper was launched at a time of remarkable changes in the world.

In the United States, Henry Ford had just introduced the Model T -a car that revolutionized travel. Wilbur Wright was touring Europe, setting new altitude records in his "aeroplane." America's "Great White Fleet," 16 battleships, was on a 15-month world tour. And World War I was only six years away.

The atmosphere was dynamic. New devices like hair driers, electric toasters, and electric washing machines were coming out of inventors' workshops. People felt great promise.

Yet it was also a time of "yellow journalism." The clatter of a sensationalistic press helped to propel the United States into the Spanish-American War. The need for better journalism was obvious. Perhaps it was no coincidence that the same year the Monitor was founded to provide a different kind of newspaper, the first journalism school was launched at the University of Missouri.

What is Monitor journalism? Our editor, David T. Cook, addresses that point in an editorial on page 14 of this section. Readers will find on the same page other clear-cut descriptions of the Monitor's goals, including Mary Baker Eddy's first-day editorial and a speech by former editor Erwin D. Canham.

The late novelist Alan Paton of South Africa caught the spirit of the Monitor in 1983 when he wrote that he admired the newspaper "because it gives no shrift to any belief in the irredeemable wickedness of man, nor in the futility of human endeavor. It is a newspaper of sober and responsible hope." His brief statement is printed today on page 13.

Of course, readers want their newspaper to be more than just news. They want humor and other lively features. A page 1 column, "Monitorials," filled that role for the first 11 years. We've printed a few Monitorial items from 1909. You'll find them to the right.

Likewise, the Monitor was an early advocate of comic strips and editorial cartoons. Samples can be found on pages 2 and 12. We've also included on page 12 a selection of the once extremely popular "Sun Dial" column. Some may remember its slogan: "I record only the sunny hours." It ran for 48 years.

For 90 years, the Monitor staff has striven to produce a clean, family newspaper.

That effort has simultaneously captured six Pulitzer Prizes along with more than 300 other awards. We attribute that success to the Monitor difference.

A recent article in The San Diego Union-Tribune touched on that difference. It cited a legendary 1934 wire story on the death of bank robber John Dillinger. The wire report read:

"John Dillinger, ace bad man of the world, got his last night - two slugs through the heart and one through his head. He was tough and he was shrewd but he wasn't as tough and shrewd as the federals .... It took 27 of them to end Dillinger's career, and their strength came out of his weakness - a woman."

Colorful, yes, but not Monitor style. Then the paper quoted the Monitor's entire story that day:

"CHICAGO - John Dillinger, a thief, was shot and killed yesterday by federal agents. He had 30 cents in his pocket."

That contrast says it neatly.

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