Until this past Tuesday, I don’t think I’d been on a class field trip since I was 16. A “big kid” field trip this was, I wasn’t asked to bring a brown bag lunch and bug spray, but rather sit in on a budget meeting at very interesting global news magazine known as The Christian Science Monitor.
I’m not a Christian Scientist, and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have picked up the magazine or headed to the Christian Science Monitor website on my own accord sheerly because of its title. Previously, I’d assumed The Monitor was geared toward those mentioned in its title, but I was actually wrong.
When Mary Baker Eddy willed that The Monitor be a newspaper to “injure no man, but to bless all mankind,” she, as their website puts it, intended to “bless” not “injure” the subjects of the newspapers’ reporting. The website suggests that The Monitor is “a real news organization owned by a church,” and, in holding to Eddy’s will, it has continued to grow as a news source that places an emphasis on finding the solutions to the world’s problems.
“Building on the DNA of the monitor is trying to be fair … trying not to spread fear,” said The Monitor’s Managing Editor John Yemma at his budget meeting this past Tuesday. Yemma, who explained to students in my Reinventing the News class the mission of the monitor, also said that the magazine tries “to answer the why question as much as possible … why this is happening.” The Monitor’s mission is evident by several magazine covers which hang on the wall at the back of its newsroom, one of which says “6 Lessons from the Spill,” referring to the landmark BP oil spill which most news organizations covered far more dauntingly.
So, how has a magazine like this struggled, and thrived, in a changing media world?
One issue, according to Yemma, that The Monitor faces, is search engine optimization.
As newspapers move onto the web, articles are searched for using short concise phrases, and each publication is hoping to get their articles to the top of the Google search results for that topic. This phenomenon, which some would say is surely the cause of a mosque in a recreation center several blocks from ground zero being named the “ground zero mosque,” can cause reporters to have “labored in vain for no one to read [their stories], ” said Yemma.
Social Media, on the other hand, has certainly helped The Monitor gain more readers. Reporters at the news magazine use Twitter to find out what the public thinks is relevant- “trending” topics often garner the most attention from reporters in the newsroom, and the Monitor also has over 25,000 fans on Facebook. Additionally, the site uses quizzes (including one entitled “Are you smarter than an atheist?” which “went viral” according to Yemma), to keep visitors on their website for longer periods of time.
After my visit, I’ll surely be heading to their website when I need a solid multimedia update on a tragedy that I’d typically be more fearful to read about – in my mind, our job as reporters is not to instill fear to gain readers, but rather, to keep readers informed and equally engaged in the solution.