Richard J. Cattani

~ A Monitor hero ~

Richard J. Cattani, who passed on Dec. 24, captained The Christian Science Monitor through some of the roughest seas in its 91-year history.

Dick was a passionate believer in the Monitor's mission of unselfish service through journalism. Over a 30-year career, he brought Harvard-trained intelligence, wide-ranging curiosity, and a flair for language to assignments as City Hall reporter, Midwest bureau chief, White House correspondent, chief editorial writer, and editor.

He was a pioneer in bringing a serious study of public opinion to national political reporting and served on the board of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut.

But Dick's lasting legacy to the paper is the loyalty, bravery, and resourcefulness he displayed as editor while shepherding the Monitor through turbulent times.

Dick was named editor in November 1988 after Katherine W. Fanning resigned to protest changes she felt would be detrimental to the paper. The announcement of the new editor was greeted in the newsroom with chilly silence, in part because staffers were worried they were about to lose their jobs. Gestures of congratulation and support were so few that when Dick's wife sent roses to his office, the new editor was moved to tears.

It was clear the road ahead would not be easy. The budget was being cut. Some longtime staffers resigned. Dick would have to lay off many others to meet tighter budget targets.

In the end, the Monitor survived to thrive again. Dick served as editor for nearly six years, until Aug. 1, 1994, when he became editor at large. He retired in February 1997.

"Dick loved the Monitor deeply and served it courageously," said John L. Selover, manager of The Christian Science Publishing Society and vice chairman of the board of directors of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, the publisher of this newspaper. "The Monitor he stood for remains as a voice of reason and humanity and the spirituality from which they flow."

Cattani was a fountain of ideas. He organized scores of special reporting projects - 70 in one year alone - and used staff vacancies as an opportunity to foster the careers of a younger generation of Monitor reporters. One of Cattani's hires, David Rohde, went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1995.

Dick also took an active interest in helping women advance at the paper. For example, he encouraged his office assistant to return to college and earn her bachelor's degree. She is now the Monitor's assistant international news editor.

He also was the first Monitor editor to appoint women to serve both as national and international news editors.

In January 1989 Cattani wrote to readers to assert the Monitor's continuing value. "The Christian Science Monitor has put into Boston for some modifications - we've taken on the new advances in journalistic rigging and hull design. Our mission - to report to the world what it is up against and wherein its progress lies - remains unchanged. Indeed, we feel a gathering of new energy as we embark again under full sail."

What was it like sailing with Cattani? It was never dull and was often demanding. In the beginning, Dick and his crew would arrive at the office between 3 and 4 a.m. to deal with a new production system.

Through it all, Dick retained his passion for family, faith, cooking, gardening, music, travel, and ideas.

Family was the anchor of Dick's life and his family often appeared in the columns he wrote. Dick's wife, Jacqueline, and his children, Jeremy, Ruth, and Gabriel, gave unstintingly to the Monitor.

Jackie, a professional chef, moved her culinary career repeatedly as Monitor management asked Dick to take new assignments. Dick's children found themselves changing cities when they wanted to least. They came through it smart, strong, and devoted to their Dad.

He viewed Monitor staffers as a family with the editor as father figure. Dick had a palpable love for the people who produced this newspaper.

He was genuinely interested in ensuring fair treatment and career advancement for each Monitor worker. Not every staff member warmed to the family metaphor or to Dick's sometimes stern attention to the smaller details of newsroom life. But they all knew how deeply he cared about the Monitor family.

The family theme undergirds some of the most moving words ever to appear in the paper. They came in a column Dick wrote entitled "Some Coaching for a Daughter." The text captures the spiritual strength he brought to the office of editor.

Dick wrote: "When you have run through your personal counselors, friends, family, professors, mentors, on some issue, and still need an answer, you have come to where we should start: This is the knowledge that God loves us. He knows us. He structures all things. The concepts we need and the strength of heart to advance them, He provides to our thought; they are manna; they well up within consciousness continually. Know that He loves you without condition."

Those of us who love the Monitor will always be grateful for what Dick Cattani did and for the courage he displayed in doing it.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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