Dear Readers: Welcome to 'Common Ground' and other changes in Monitor Commentary

The Monitor's Commentary section introduces a new feature, called 'Common Ground, Common Good,' that seeks to soften polarizing debates over issues that sharply divide people. We are also reviving the popular forum, 'One Minute Debate: 3 Views,' that offers a 'third' alternative.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Reuters/file
President Obama signs the bipartisan bill to cut student loan interest rates Aug. 9. The Monitor's new 'Common Ground, Common Good' feature will have a wide lens, from foreign conflicts to neighborhood disputes.

Dear Readers,

Welcome to a new feature in the Monitor’s Commentary section called “Common Ground, Common Good.” It publishes guest writers, some well known and some not, who offer ways to soften many of the polarizing debates over issues that sharply divide people. Writers might define a radical middle where solutions can be forged or simply methods to improve – or even start – a dialogue.

The lens is wide, from foreign conflicts to neighborhood disputes. The inaugural column is by former US Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who urges Americans to mobilize for a middle ground if they want an end to gridlock in Washington. You are welcome to share your own experiences in finding common ground with folks who think differently from you. E-mail us at commonground@csmonitor.com.

In a similar spirit, we are reviving the “One Minute Debate: 3 Views” feature that ran during the last election campaign. Readers liked the short takes on single issues, especially the notion of a third alternative – sometimes a compromise, sometimes an unconventional approach.

The Commentary section will still include the Monitor’s View (or editorial), political cartoons, letters from readers on Monitor articles, and opinion pieces (or “op-eds,” so named for once being opposite the editorial page) that reflect a diverse range of views.

At CSMonitor.com/commentary, you’ll see a new heading, “Readers Respond,” that includes a selection of letters to the editor and comments from visitors to the Monitor’s Facebook page. Some op-eds will also include suggested “action steps” to engage with a topic.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded The Christian Science Monitor in 1908, defined its mission as “to injure no man, but to bless all mankind.” We hope these new features will inspire thought and constructive action, especially toward “common ground, common good.”

Warmly,
The Commentary Editors

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

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