Is Founded Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The appearance of the Christian Science Monitor marked a major effort by a religiously sponsored publishing group to report news events in a style marked by scrupulously nonsectarian objectivity.

Summary of Event

The Christian Science Monitor published its first edition on November 28, 1908. Foremost among the newspaper’s creators was Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science religion. The philosophy on which Eddy’s religious movement was based exercised a significant influence on the newspaper’s nature and evolution. Religious movements;Christian Science Christian Science Christian Science Monitor (newspaper) Newspapers;Christian Science Monitor [kw]Christian Science Monitor Is Founded (Nov. 28, 1908) [kw]Monitor Is Founded, Christian Science (Nov. 28, 1908) Christian Science Monitor (newspaper) Newspapers;Christian Science Monitor [g]United States;Nov. 28, 1908: Christian Science Monitor Is Founded[02230] [c]Publishing and journalism;Nov. 28, 1908: Christian Science Monitor Is Founded[02230] Eddy, Mary Baker Canham, Erwin D.

Among the key elements underlying Christian Science is the belief that humankind is created in the image of God and that this inherently spiritual human nature, being a reflection of an infinitely good Creator, is endowed with the intelligence to overcome evil and material limitation. Prayer and spiritual healing are also essential components of the church’s teachings. Eddy envisioned the Christian Science Monitor as an important tool for fulfilling the healing mission she had established for her church, in that it would confront and address the social and moral problems that face the world. By bringing national and international events into clearer focus for its readers through spiritually enlightened, problem-solving journalism, the newspaper would combat the apathy, indifference, and despair that are common responses to world affairs.

Although religious teachings per se were never considered to be among the essential goals of the Christian Science Monitor, the newspaper’s founders did, from the outset, reserve a special section of each issue, called the “Home Forum,” for editorials on a wide variety of religious subjects. The first of these was written and signed by Eddy herself, but policy underwent a change almost immediately. Soon after the November, 1908, issues were published, this key section of the paper began to appear with no author’s name.

In this respect, the Monitor was quite different from its earliest forerunner, the Christian Science Journal, which Eddy had founded in 1883 as a monthly publication with the specific mission of airing and developing denominational questions. Eddy established a second, somewhat different, periodical, the Christian Science Sentinel, in 1898. Although devoted to religious articles, this weekly publication included a substantial number of news stories. The emphasis placed on the major issue of the day, the Spanish-American War, was an early indication of what the public at large would see when the Monitor appeared a decade later: a notable sensitivity to issues that had worldwide importance, especially questions concerning peace between nations.

One of the main problems in the expansion of journalism Journalism;sensationalism during the first decade of the twentieth century was publishers’ increasing use of sensationalism to attract the attention of readers and to guarantee large circulation numbers. The trend was associated with two major figures in American journalism, William Randolph Hearst Hearst, William Randolph and Joseph Pulitzer. Pulitzer, Joseph This phenomenon was unattractive to many people who, without necessarily wishing to retreat to religiously sponsored publications, might be interested in a newspaper dedicated to higher standards in the choice of subjects discussed and in methods of presenting the news. When the idea of the Christian Science Monitor was first broached, therefore, the paper’s primary emphasis was drawn from principles suggested to Eddy by fellow churchman and Boston newspaperman John L. Wright Wright, John L. in a March, 1908, letter: “Many would like a paper that takes less notice of crime, etc., and gives attention . . . to the positive side of life, to the activities that work for the good of man and to the things really worth knowing.” Wright emphasized the need for “daily newspapers that will place principle before dividends.”

Mary Baker Eddy.

(Library of Congress)

Given such considerations, the unique features of the first issues of the Christian Science Monitor are more easily understood. The paper gave a considerable amount of attention, for example, to the issue of the U.S. arms budget and its discussion in Congress. The Monitor was careful to try to view this subject with attention to all of its ramifications (for employment in economic sectors that were not specifically military, for example) rather than to offer a simple journalistic summary. Similarly, the Monitor’s coverage of a locally vital issue, the Charles River dam project in Boston Bay, was accompanied by consideration of the wider implications of such environmental control systems. The paper also discussed the dam’s effect on the river’s banks, as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was one of the first institutions to be founded on the reclaimed areas of Boston’s Back Bay.

Such emphasis on major news events and their wider repercussions did not prevent the Christian Science Monitor from also providing more popular forms of information, most notably sports news. From its earliest issues and for a number of years, page three of the paper was reserved for news of sporting events.

As soon as a publication structure existed in Boston, the Monitor was in a position to internationalize its sources for news information through the organization of the Christian Science Church. A notable example of this was the contribution of Frederick Dixon, Dixon, Frederick the head of the church’s Committees on Publication for Great Britain and Ireland. Until the Monitor grew large enough to send salaried correspondents to foreign capitals, it relied on church committee heads such as Dixon to send regular clippings from the foreign press that could be integrated (with acknowledgment of the sources) into the news columns of the Boston paper.

Significance

The death of Mary Baker Eddy in December, 1910, posed no immediate transitional problems for the recently established newspaper. In 1914, however, it fell to Archibald McLellan, McLellan, Archibald a former editor of the Monitor and director of the Christian Science Church following Eddy’s death, to confront the future by confirming his support for the editorial leadership of Dixon, a man who had earlier served as an associate editor at Eddy’s suggestion.

Although the paper maintained steady progress in providing quality news from different points around the world over the next few years, its second decade witnessed some tensions, particularly where questions of possible censorship were concerned. Because the Monitor would not limit itself to hiring only Christian Scientists to carry out the business of gathering and editing the news, some reporters objected when the paper’s authorities suggested wording changes in articles in order to avoid the appearance of acceptance of “morally questionable” practices that were being reported. Specific efforts were made to ensure that staff and higher editorial personnel maintained journalistic standards without imposing moral judgments. Nevertheless, as late as the mid-1950’s, certain terms were consciously avoided in the Monitor’s pages. “Passing on” was used instead of “death,” for example, because the former reflected more closely the Christian Science religious belief concerning the end of life.

Another area that reflected the Christian Science Monitor’s concern for maintaining different standards from those of more typical daily newspapers was its treatment of “society news.” Only organizational activities of recognized social groups were considered worthy of news coverage; practically nothing appeared in the newspaper’s columns about the social activities or honors of prominent individuals or families.

The one area in which the Monitor’s particular philosophy can be seen most visibly overlapping with editorial policy toward the news is that of the discussion of medical questions. Because Christian Science places strong emphasis on freedom of individual decision in confronting the effects of disease, the paper tended on several occasions to devote major attention to issues that might affect such individual rights. This was the case, for example, in the early 1940’s, when policy makers in the United States were considering the adoption of national medical health programs. The paper’s keen interest in such subjects, and particularly in questions of medical ethics, mounted steadily as issues such as genetic engineering, euthanasia, and abortion increasingly became topics of international debate toward the end of the twentieth century.

Although it would be inaccurate to suggest that Christian Science religious policies ever dominated the content of Monitor articles or editorials, tension sometimes occurred between church directors and those placed in the highest positions of responsibility for the paper’s management. One such case occurred less than a decade after Eddy’s death and hastened the retirement of editor Frederick Dixon; another case occurred nearly seventy years later, when budgetary cuts and shifts in emphasis toward different media audiences precipitated the resignation of another highly respected editor, Kay Fanning.

Whatever effects internal debates may have had on key personnel appointments and retirements over the years, there is no doubt that the Christian Science Monitor succeeded in maintaining and expanding its image as a highly professional and objective newspaper. This success was marked by the pattern of the paper’s street circulation figures and, increasingly, the growth in the number of regular subscribers paying for mail delivery of the Monitor to their homes in many countries around the world.

The paper’s first circulation records from April, 1909, showed a total of 43,000 subscribers. This figure nearly doubled by 1917 (to 81,558) and then rose to 123,080 in 1919. The immediate postwar figures were considerably lower, but growth in circulation became marked after the mid-1920’s, largely because of the effective efforts of Colonel Herbert Johnson, who applied his prior experience as a business executive to the task of circulation management at the Monitor from 1927 to 1942. By the mid-1950’s, circulation exceeded 170,000. However, in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the paper experienced financial difficulties that necessitated cuts in staff and changes in format.

By the end of the twentieth century, with the advent of the Internet, the situation of the Christian Science Monitor began to improve again. It was among the first U.S. newspapers to establish an online presence, a move that enabled it to expand readership even as print circulation declined to about 71,000 in 2005. With 1.7 million unique visitors to its Web site per month as of 2005, the Monitor became one of the top ten U.S. papers in terms of online readership. Christian Science Monitor (newspaper) Newspapers;Christian Science Monitor

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Canham, Erwin D. Commitment to Freedom. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958. A comprehensive history of the Christian Science Monitor, from several decades before its actual founding in 1908 to its fiftieth anniversary in 1958, by a longtime Monitor editor. Includes many vignettes concerning the personal characteristics of individuals associated with the paper’s first fifty years of operation.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Childs, M. W. “The Christian Science Monitor.” Saturday Evening Post, September 15, 1945, 14-15. Published soon after the end of World War II, this article commended the Monitor for its ability to adhere to high standards of journalism in a very difficult environment for international news.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">“Downsized.” The Nation, December 5, 1988, 588. Discusses the resignation of Kay Fanning, editor of the Monitor and first woman president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, over drastic cuts in the Monitor’s staff and the number of pages it could contain.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. New York: Perseus Books, 1998. Comprehensive biography of the founder of the Christian Science Church. Briefly discusses the establishment of the Christian Science Monitor. Includes index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Helm, Leslie. “The Church That Would Be a Media Mogul.” BusinessWeek, September 26, 1988, 53-54. Discusses a major and controversial shift in publications emphasis on the part of the Christian Science Church: introduction of a Christian Science documentary information program for television and the launching of World Monitor as a subscription magazine.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Quint, W. D. “Telling the Good Men Do.” New England, September, 1909, 98-104. An early article about the Christian Science Monitor in a regional magazine specializing in issues of interest to New Englanders. Covers both the founding philosophy and responsible personnel of the Monitor, which was less than a year old at the time.

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