Friday, March 27, 2009

No Hard copy? After 101 years, Christian Science Monitor goes online only

Karen Tumulty blogs over at about the demise of the Christian Science Monitor. The powers that be have taken it off life support and now there is only a cyber-edition of this plain-speaking paper. (I always enjoyed overhearing the explanations its foreign correspondents used to devise for government press officers who erroneously believed it to be some obscure church newspaper. And the paper broke some worthwhile scoops over the years. It did not tend to exaggerate, and many stringers got their chops reporting for the CSM. Do they still have Christian Science Reading Rooms? If so, they better install wi-fi.

Just over a century ago, in 1908, an 86-year-old woman looked at the dismal state of journalism around her and decided to do something to fix it. Mary Baker Eddy (pictured below) started the Christian Science Monitor not to further the doctrine of the church that she had founded, but because there was a need, as her first city editor John L. Wright put it, for a daily paper that would "place principle before dividends, and that will be fair, frank and honest with the people on all subjects and under whatever pressure — a truly independent voice not controlled by commercial and political monopolists."

Today, you hear calls for the same improvements in the media, which has come to be dominated again by those "commercial and political monopolists." And even worse, by the unsentimental and value-free dictates of their share prices. That's why it is ironic and sad that this marks the final day that Eddy's newspaper will exist, at least in its daily print form, as a publication "to injure no man, but to bless all mankind." I have a copy of the final edition--at only 24 pages, a thin version of its former self--on my desk. (You can download it here, though it doesn't quite feel the same.) I think that if Mary Baker Eddy were here today, she would tell us that somewhere out there is a business model that can sustain quality journalism. We all wish the Monitor well as it seeks to find that model in its new online incarnation.

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