How is the Monitor different from other news sources? If you read the Monitor regularly, you probably have some pretty good answers. You know it's an experience unlike any other news source.
But if you had to describe that experience to a stranger in a sentence or two, what would you say?
Describing the Monitor experience is an assignment we do over and over again in the Monitor's business departments. We're constantly developing brochures, mail pieces, advertisements, sales presentations, and other messages that require compelling statements of what's unique, valuable, and rewarding about the Monitor.
That might seem easy, because so many people in today's superheated media climate want more thoughtful and constructive journalism. Every marketing piece is an opportunity to explain that it already exists in the Monitor.
But today's consumers are experts in fouling off marketing pitches. We give them great reasons to try the Monitor, but - if they even bother to open the envelope or read the ad - they're well armed with reasons to say no.
"Too expensive." "We already get a newspaper." "I don't need/don't have time for it." And so on.
And then there's the name. Many people know The Christian Science Monitor is one of the most respected names in journalism - but many others don't. Their first reaction is, "News with a religious bias? No thanks!"
Monitor readers know it's among the most bias-free of all news sources.
Church ownership is the foundation of the paper's dedication to honesty, balance and fairness, freedom from cynicism, and deep-seated constructive motives. Only a church-owned newspaper would have a statement of purpose like the Monitor's: "To injure no man, but to bless all mankind."
To explore the Monitor difference, I asked a group of editors and deputy editors to scan a week's front pages, describing their objectives in each story, and explaining how our stories differed from those in other media.
A pattern emerged. Over and over again, the Monitor had pulled back from the freeze-frame view seen in other media to provide a bigger picture.
In effect, the Monitor had asked, "What else do readers need to know to understand this?" It found answers by reviewing history, examining solutions under development, viewing US issues through other nations' eyes, reporting on wider or longer-term impacts on the economy, on families or children, on the environment.
In everything the editors said, I heard a humble respect for the intelligence and judgment of readers. Their aim was not to make judgments, but to help readers understand the news in its broadest possible context, so they could judge for themselves.
It was quite an experience. If we could cram a million people into my office to hear the journalists speak from the heart, instead of sending them marketing pieces through the mail, they'd understand the Monitor's unique value a whole lot better.
I haven't been able to figure out a way to do that. But we can do it another way, and you, as a Monitor reader, can help.
You know better than anyone else what the Monitor does for you. When told to another person, this can be a powerful thing. It's "word of mouth," which most people find far more believable than even the most honest of marketing messages.
So I'd like to invite you and other readers - the Monitor community - to help us share the newspaper's unique benefits with a broader audience. You may already be doing this in other ways, and we're grateful for that. But I'd ask you to answer, in your own words, the same question we answer in our marketing materials: "How is the Monitor different from other news sources?"
If you'll jot it down - just a sentence or two - and send it to me, we can use it as a sincere testimonial in letters, brochures, or other messages to possible new readers.
Please mail your answer, with your name, address and telephone number, to: Steve Gray, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115. Or e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Together, we can let millions of people know what the Monitor does for its readers, helping them understand what it can do for them.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society