A publication that reinvented itself for the changing times

Yesterday my “Reinventing the News” class visited the Christian Science Monitor, which is located at 210 Massachusetts Ave. The international news organization delivers global coverage through its website, weekly magazine, daily news briefing, e-mail newsletters and mobile website. The Christian Science Monitor is a non-profit publication whose revenue has been supplemented by the Christian Science Church since its founding in 1908 by Mary Baker Eddy.

As Professor Kennedy pointed out, the tour didn’t include seeing any printing presses. It is 2011, after all. On the tour’s first stop, we observed the 10 a.m. editors’ meeting. Eight people, including two interns, sat around a conference table and discussed the stories of the day, analyzed web traffic and decided when to post articles online. As I listened to the conversation, I noticed a wall that was covered in past magazine cover stories. I enjoyed reading the headlines, which ranged from asking if the Supreme Court should look more like America, to natural disasters and uprisings in the Middle East. Some of the phrases that caught my eye were, “Islam and the West,” “The Rising Cost of Kids,” “Reflection on Us: What the Movies Say About America’s State of Mind,” “A New Era: How the Middle East Turmoil Will Reshape the World,” “The Royals: Do Monarchies Still Matter?” and “Natural Disasters: What Have We Learned?”

Editors view the colon as an important punctuation mark in headlines.

The editor, John Yemma, told us the editorial team has planned cover stories through the end of May. He emphasized the importance of using the colon in headlines to distinguish their articles from similar stories in other publications, such as The New York Times, BBC and the Guardian. The Christian Science Monitor’s competitors are much larger publications. Yemma said he sees The Economist as their biggest competitor.

Editors discussed the stories of the day in the morning news meeting.

In 2009, the Christian Science Monitor shifted from being a daily newspaper to a multimedia news organization. According to an article written by Professor Kennedy, circulation exceeded 230,000 at its peak in the early 1970s. Now, 60 to 70 percent of the team’s effort goes into the website, and the rest is put into the weekly publication. The website received 30 million page views last month. But the editors can’t count on people visiting the homepage because the Christian Science Monitor isn’t geographically based, such as Boston.com. Interestingly, Yemma said most readers who visit the website don’t see the homepage because they access articles through Google News and other online news platforms.

Most of the reporters work in the field, not in the newsroom on Massachusetts Avenue.

The editors mentioned photo galleries, list stories and quizzes as the components of multimedia that have been successful for the Christian Science Monitor. The “Are You Smarter Than an Atheist?” quiz “has gone viral,” Yemma said.

While showing us the newsroom, Yemma said the editors’ and reporters’ main goal is to present the news in ways that interest people. I think the Christian Science Monitor team is wisely using the ideas of multimedia journalism and social media that I have learned in Professor Kennedy’s class throughout the semester.

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