1998 was a year of significant progress at The Christian Science Monitor. We launched four new weekly sections on topics of high reader interest, adopted a new design, increased the space devoted to news, published a 90th anniversary edition, and took steps to increase awareness of the Monitor with potential new subscribers.
All of these developments were encouraging. But for us, one of the professional high points of the year was a letter from a woman in the Midwest. She wrote:
"As a Monitor subscriber for over 50 years, I have found myself wishing I could tell you what the Monitor means to me...When I walk down my driveway to the mailbox and unfold my daily Monitor, I can hardly wait to see which of my friends will be greeting me.... Recently I have come to realize that the Monitor is my closest relative - a blessing in so many ways...."
We treasure the letter because it eloquently captures the close relationship the Monitor seeks to have with both new and longtime readers. Our goal is to approach readers as family friends - to be a visitor who comes to your home and makes you glad we came. By reporting the news with insight, hope, and humor, we seek to bring meaning to the welter of facts that bombard society from every corner.
The Monitor's editorial and publishing team appreciates the support our readers show by subscribing, by sharing the Monitor with those who don't yet subscribe, and by writing to encourage us or to urge us to do better. Given your support of the Monitor's uniquely constructive approach to journalism, we thought you would be interested in a report on developments here.
1998 was a challenging year for newspapers in America. Last month, the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) released a study that found newspaper readers in general were:
Critical of frequent grammatical and spelling mistakes.
Weary of sensational stories being overplayed.
Convinced that journalists are biased.
Suspicious that newspapers are subject to manipulation by advertisers and other powerful people.
Christine Urban, who conducted ASNE's poll of 3,000 readers, says, "Throughout the survey, the public expresses constant and consistent appeals for fairness and evenhandedness in news coverage."
The demand for a fairer, higher quality journalism is one the Monitor is uniquely positioned to meet. The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, set the paper on a path of unselfish public service through journalism. Thus, we seek to report the news in a manner that helps, and never injures, those we cover while offering an unflinchingly honest view of the world. Our goal is to provide balance, fairness, and insight in every story.
These values were tested last year as we covered issues surrounding President Clinton's relationship with a young intern. We were guided, as always, by a statement in the paper's first anniversary edition:
"It is not to be understood that the Monitor has stooped to a censorship so narrow or opinionated as to render its new service inadequate, inefficient, or incomplete. Far from it. Whatever is of public importance or affects the public welfare ... is printed in the Monitor in completeness sufficient for information, but without unnecessary embellishment or sensational display."
We did our best to follow this advice. Nevertheless, we heard - loudly - from readers who think we are shameless apologists for Mr. Clinton and from other readers who see us as hypocritically harsh toward the president.
In our coverage of this month's impeachment trial in the Senate, we will continue our efforts to provide insightful, fair news coverage and editorials. We also will strive to see both sides get a fair portion of the space on our op-ed pages.
In 1998 we took a number of steps aimed at translating the Monitor's timeless values into an even more compelling, relevant, and useful paper. Perhaps most notable was the launch of the Arts & Leisure, Learning, Ideas, and Homefront sections to provide readers with focused, in-depth reporting on topics of high interest. Response to these sections and to the Work & Money section launched in 1997 has been strong and positive.
The redesign of the paper that appeared in mid-November also triggered virtually unanimous reader approval. For example, Emily Hayes of Cleveland e-mailed us: "I agree with those who say the Monitor's spiffy new image is pleasing. A new coat of paint is always refreshing. I'm glad you haven't changed the fine old house underneath the paint."
The new design is an effort to give the paper a cleaner, more inviting look and feel. It remains a work in progress with design chief John Kehe making subtle improvements along the way in response to reader comments.
As part of redesign and in response to reader requests, the Monitor increased the amount of space devoted to news and news analysis. One benefit of the expanded space was our ability to offer world editor Clay Jones's new "World" column. In the tradition of former Monitor stalwarts Joseph Harsch and Geoffrey Godsell, Clay explains not just what is happening, but why an event matters in the larger scheme of things.
The desire to look more deeply at trends in public thought is one reason the Monitor last year began publishing exclusive public-opinion polls in collaboration with Technometrica Institute of Policy and Politics (TIPP).
A key theme in our 90th anniversary edition was analysis of trends that shaped the 20th century. Production of the 14-page commemorative broadsheet was spearheaded by Managing Editor John Dillin. We heard from many readers saying they enjoyed looking back over 90 years of history through the eyes of Monitor reporters and photographers.
Both the editorial and publishing teams took steps last year to increase the Monitor's visibility. One major form of response to the public's demand for a higher quality journalism is on the Web at csmonitor.com. The site has grown rapidly and now draws 500,000 different visitors a month. It was redesigned in 1998 to speed download time and make every feature on the site easier to find. The site is updated seven days a week as major news dictates. Its special online reports about the impeachment crisis and the US bombing of Iraq have attracted many new visitors from major search engines like Yahoo.com.
In December, we began offering Monitor Extra, a customized, electronic version of the Monitor delivered either as a Web page or as e-mail. The $5.95 monthly subscription fee for Monitor Extra ($3.95 if you subscribe to our newspaper) includes unlimited access to the Monitor's archives back to 1980.
At the end of 1998, the Monitor began running a new ad campaign illustrating the paper's unique approach to journalism by showing actual Monitor stories and featuring the tag line "Monitor readers know better." The ads appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and some editions of The Wall Street Journal. We also have been making more Monitor reporters and editors available for appearances on broadcast news programs.
1999 also promises to be an eventful year at the Monitor. On the editorial front, we will continue to refine and improve the journalistic service we provide, seeking solutions to the problems mankind faces. In both the paper and the Electronic Edition, we will focus on providing insight, clarity, and meaning. On an important but less lofty level, we hope to do a better job of rooting out the spelling and grammatical errors that sometimes creep into the paper.
Our commitment to international news remains strong. In February, the Monitor will open a new bureau in New Delhi, our 12th international outpost, to enhance our coverage of densely populated India and the strategically important south Asia region.
In addition to strengthening our international coverage, we plan to enhance our service to international readers by launching an improved weekly World Edition in 1999, a launch postponed from 1998. We will provide more details this spring.
At the Electronic Edition, we will be providing more opportunities for visitors to chat online with Monitor reporters and editors about major stories in the news. This electronic interaction promises to be an increasingly important aspect of the Monitor's relationship with readers.
The Monitor publishing team is actively exploring better ways to get the paper into readers' hands. Some subscribers in the Boston area now get early morning delivery of our paper. Thanks to an arrangement with a local newspaper delivery company, the Monitor is on most doorsteps by 5:30 a.m. As a result, subscribers here have the opportunity to begin the day with the Monitor and use it all day long.
The Monitor distribution staff is working on ways to expand early morning delivery to a wider portion of the U.S. We hope a reconstituted production system also will allow us to offer more current news in the paper. We will keep you posted on developments in this area.
In support of the improvements we have made in the paper, in the fiscal year ending April 30, 1999, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, will invest $18 million to cover the difference between the Monitor's operating costs and the revenue it earns from circulation and advertisements.
We mention this figure to enlist your help in expanding both the paper's subscriber list and its advertising base. Later this month, the publishing team will launch a major circulation-building effort by mailing subscription offers to more than 3 million potential readers. Meanwhile, the paper is rebuilding its advertising sales staff and plans to approach companies that share ethical values similar to the Monitor's. Your ideas on likely corporate advertisers are welcome and should be sent to the Managing Publisher.
Our modest subscriber base is not a deterrent to the good the Monitor can accomplish. In a gracious recent column about the Monitor in the Austin-American Statesman, editor Rich Oppel noted: "The Monitor today is a paper of small circulation ... but great influence. That influence grows out of its editors' clear sense of what the newspaper is and who their readers are...."
During the coming year we will continue our efforts to expand public awareness of the Monitor. Staff writers and editors will step up the pace of their broadcast appearances. As part of this overall awareness effort, in February an exhibit on the Monitor and its founder will open at the National Press Club building in downtown Washington, D.C. It will provide an opportunity to inform fellow journalists about today's Monitor and about the pioneering woman who helped change the course of American journalism. If you are in the Washington area next month, please go to see the exhibit.
Thank you for welcoming us into your home each day. In the New Year we will strive to make the Monitor even more insightful, more timely, and more deeply connected to the issues closest to your life and to the lives of those you love.
David T. Cook
Stephen T. Gray Managing Publisher