The persistence of progress

Amid war and terror, famine and plague, The Monitor's confident hope in telling the world's story endures.


Far too often, a reporter meets a person in a moment of crisis. But no one who has been swept up in famine, war, or even a minor controversy in an otherwise quiet community is defined only by a moment. There was always a before; there is always an after.

A recent Monitor cover story (click here) is a perfect example: You might remember that in July 2015 Kristen Chick chronicled the harrowing journey of a young Syrian man who was part of a massive refugee crisis. Along with a companion, Muhannad Qaiconie made his way to Turkey, hazarded a crossing by sea to Greece, and trekked through the Balkans en route to Germany. He lived rough, endured beatings, dodged robbers, and experienced growing anti-foreigner sentiment.

Kristen catches up with Muhannad in Berlin, where he is thriving – mostly because of his courage and enterprise, partly because of Germany’s generosity, but also because of a Monitor reader named Dorothy. So moved was she by Kristen’s first report that she funded Muhannad’s family’s escape from Aleppo, Syria. To me, that is the essence of Monitor journalism. Our reporter found an individual who humanized an otherwise impersonal crisis. Readers who learned about this resilient young man responded – many by simply understanding more of what a refugee goes through, others by prayer and charitable giving, and a few by directly involving themselves.

Thank you, Dorothy.

If we check on Muhannad next year or a decade from now, his story will have unfolded in interesting, unexpected ways. That’s true for everyone. A person gripped by addiction can embrace a life of dignity. A child born into dysfunction can emerge as a nurturing parent. A blighted neighborhood can be reborn. Pollution, crime, and poverty can decrease. Enemies can become partners. These are not wishful thoughts. These are stories that have been carefully documented by Monitor reporters since 1908. Amid war and terror, famine and plague, hope has endured, progress has persisted.

The first Monitor was published on a gray November day. Our founder, Mary Baker Eddy, was unfazed, declaring it “the lightest of days.” 

* * *

With this column, I’m passing the keyboard to the Monitor’s new editor, Mark Sappenfield. Thank you for listening over the years – for the heads-ups, the nudges, the kudos, the begging to differ. 

Thank you, above all, for being engaged. It has been a privilege to tell, at least in part, the story the Monitor has been telling for 109 years. As generations of Monitor journalists and Monitor readers have known, that story is not without challenges but never without hope. The form of the Monitor may evolve (watch for a new digital daily soon), but the mission is constant: “to injure no man, but to bless all mankind.”

So long for now. Your story, my story, the world’s billions of amazing stories – and The Christian Science Monitor’s confident hope when it tells them – continue. We live in the lightest of days.

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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

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