Christian Science Monitor to shut down daily print edition
For the past 30 years or more, I have unintentionally been disappointing Christian Scientists on a regular basis. Whenever I was in the United States and came across a Christian Science Reading Room, I walked in and asked for the latest copy of the Christian Science Monitor. Behind the desk was usually a kindly older man or woman, probably a retired volunteer, and they seemed happy to see a young (and then not so young) person dropping by. They seemed even more pleased when I also took copies from the day before or the day before that. They often asked how I knew the paper and I’d say I used to subscribe when I was a grad student in Boston. With a kindly smile, they would then inquire if I was a Christian Scientist or wanted to learn more about Christian Science. I would say no, thank you very much, and leave.
I thought about these people today when I heard that the Christian Science Monitor will scrap its daily print run for web-only edition in April 2009 (plus a weekly in print). It’s been struggling for a while and circulation has fallen from the levels back in the early ’70s when I read it daily. But it continued to publish high-quality journalism and I enjoyed picking up a copy or two whenever I came across it.
For a church-related publication, the Monitor was curious in that it did not promote its own faith in its pages (apart, perhaps, from its lack of obituaries). There was just one daily religious feature on the Home Forum page, towards the back of the paper. Otherwise, it focused on serious analytical reporting of national and international news, especially foreign stories that mainstream American newspapers were not good at covering. It was a must-read for anyone interested in world affairs.
Even if there wasn’t much overtly religious about the Monitor, it did have an ethical dimension that shaped its character. It was launched in 1908 as a reply to the yellow journalism of the day and the church’s founder Mary Baker Eddy said it was “to injure no man, but to bless all mankind.” It avoided sensationalism and spin and could take a day or two before writing about an event. This was a breath of fresh air even before 24/7 television news came our way.
So the end of the print daily may make readers a bit nostalgic (like WNYC’s John Hockenberry – listen here), but there’s a little silver lining for me and probably many other occasional readers over the years. We won’t have to disappoint those friendly people at the reading rooms anymore.