One final ‘Top 10’: best of Monitor journalism

We looked through all our work last year and found 10 stories that most embodied the Monitor’s desire to uplift, enlighten, and improve through journalism. And we thought, why not share?

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
Aisha and Vincent Anibueze from 'A love story defies Boko Haram'

We know, we know. You’ve probably read enough “Best of 2018” lists to last you all of 2019. But we looked through all our work last year and found 10 stories that most embodied the Monitor’s desire to uplift, enlighten, and improve through journalism. And we thought, why not share? 

If you were particularly affected by any of these – or want to suggest another – please let me know. You can reach me at editor@csmonitor.com.

1. A love story defies Boko Haram (June 18) Terror groups aim to inspire fear and divisions. But in Maiduguri, Nigeria, which has endured Boko Haram attacks for nearly a decade, our reporter tells a story of urban revival – and enduring love – through the life of a Muslim and Christian couple.

2. Two mothers, a son’s death, and the struggle for forgiveness (March 12) Writer Harry Bruinius went to Baltimore in January 2018 to report on the city’s record-high murder rate. It would become his most wrenching assignment. At a gathering of mothers affected by the violence he heard forgiveness – and gratitude for forgiveness. In a series of conversations, two mothers shared with him their interwoven stories. The result was this remarkable piece about taking steps toward healing.

3. Democracy in disrepair (Sept. 24) Politics in the United States can seem inexplicable and disheartening. Peter Grier looks at how some of the deeper drivers of the tension are creating challenges the Founders never envisioned.

4. America’s cultural legacy of ‘boys will be boys’ comes under scrutiny (Oct. 15) Men and women today are being challenged to reexamine long-held concepts of young manhood and masculinity. What’s acceptable behavior, and what’s immoral and hurtful, appear to be shifting.

5. Why Americans talk less and less about love and kindness (Nov. 12) As churchgoing has declined, Americans have talked less about spiritual issues and introspection. But the curiosity is still there, leading to efforts to find a fresh place in public conversation for moral values.

6. A Genghis Khan reinterpretation (Aug. 20 & 27) It isn’t easy for the conquered to see the contributions that a conqueror made to their country. It’s even harder when that conqueror is Genghis Khan in Russia. But in the republic of Buryatia, the view is indeed shifting. 

7. How China silences a minority (Dec. 3) Ann Scott Tyson found reporting especially challenging in the western region of Xinjiang, where she went to witness the impact of China’s forced “reeducation” of its Uyghur minority. But that work produced a rare and nuanced look at the project’s effect.

8. My reunion with desegregation (Dec. 17) Thirty years after the peak of school integration nationwide, that progress has unraveled. But the outcome in Buffalo, N.Y., could offer lessons on America’s pressing need to address racial separation. 

9. Camp Amazon: Inside the ‘lungs of the Earth’ (Oct. 1) So much of the climate change story is reported from a high altitude. Here, our writer burrowed beneath the Amazon canopy to get face-to-face with some of what’s at stake.

10. Louise Penny’s unlikely motto for murder: ‘Goodness exists’ (Jan. 14) Let’s put our biases on the table: Louise Penny has a bunch of fans at the Monitor. Compassion, community, and great characters filled her first novel, “Still Life,” which was featured in our newsroom book club last fall. Our reporter found this Canadian murder mystery writer no less inspiring in person.

Links to expanded versions of some of these stories online are available here.

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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.