Christian Science Monitor: We’ll cover fewer topics, but do so with authority and insight

At an all-hands meeting last Friday, Christian Science Monitor staffers were told that the paper is restructuring and will cut about two dozen jobs over the next 18 months. “We will retain the capacity to cover the most important stories of the day,” says a memo to staff, “but a significant share of our resources will be focused on targeted topics. …This means we will cover fewer topics, but do so with authority, insight, and healing impact.”

The full memo:

The Monitor’s Role in the World at this Hour
November 17, 2015

The Christian Science Monitor is a purpose­-driven organization. It is one of the most direct ways the Christian Science church engages the world. It’s integral to the daily practice of Christian Scientists as they pray and broaden the scope of their consciousness. And it’s a valued resource for anyone who cares about the world and wants to see healing and progress.

What does the world need now from The Christian Science Monitor?/CONTINUES

Just as Mary Baker Eddy cited imperialism as a main imposition on political thought in the era of the Monitor’s founding, extremism is a similar imposition in 2015. Just as monopoly was a major imposition on economic thought, so inequality is today. With this perspective, we have a means to understand the mental landscape of this moment in history:

● We’ve seen a great acceleration of wealth and material well­-being across the globe, yet ours is an age characterized by anxiety about the fragility of our status and the fear of being left behind.
● Violence has dropped steeply around the world, yet fear of violence and hatred remain widespread.
● The extent of empathy across religious, gender, ethnic, racial, national and cultural divides has perhaps never been greater, but still many grope for identity, status, and belonging ­­ defined by their fear of the so­called “other.”
● Democracy has spread further, and standards of transparency are higher than ever before, yet these are times of an almost blinding distrust of institutions and authority.

We live in a time of great human progress that is so distorted by these impositions on thought that news is often a source of depression or anxiety.

So how is the Monitor needed now?

Our mission – “to bless all mankind” ­- is unwavering. Our medium is the news – the lens we hold up to the daily progress of the human endeavor. Our premise is that healing the world is foremost a matter of lifting the spirit of humanity, and that we can begin to transform the world by transforming how we see the world.

We are adapting the Monitor for this historical moment. This is what we are doing:

1. We are focusing our journalism on a few critical topics where humanity is struggling and the Monitor voice is most needed. This means we will cover fewer topics, but do so with authority, insight, and healing impact. Our approach will address both the mental imposition on world thought and identify paths forward.

We will retain the capacity to cover the most important stories of the day, but a significant share of our resources will be focused on targeted topics. We will systematically decide how to identify these topics and for how long they need Monitor coverage. For instance, the Monitor could address:

● The imposition of fear about climate change by focusing on innovations in energy, technology, and policy.
● The imposition of poverty and inequality by focusing on innovation in social entrepreneurship, impact investing, and social justice.
● The imposition of extremism ­­- religious, political, ethnic, and otherwise ­­- by focusing on stories about bridge­-building, bipartisanship, civility, empathy, pragmatism, and moderation.

2. We are developing new approaches to format, presentation, and storytelling that make the Monitor voice overtly apparent and create immediate impact on the thought of the reader. New ways of telling stories include using more visuals, animated graphics, etc. ­­ and demands training staff to learn new skills. Examples of recent design ideas we are exploring include:

Premium presentation of human trafficking series
Premium presentation of a climate change solution story
Collapsible version of long­form journalism
Graphical approach to communicating hope on drought

These innovations contribute to our thinking about paid digital subscription products, which will be a significant part of our future.

3. We are building a new relationship with our audiences ­- from current loyalists to new prospects ­- to ensure relevance and engagement. We will attract communities of those seeking to make the world a better place. We will increasingly organize the staff around joint Editorial­-Publishing teams that focus on serving specific audiences. Initial efforts in this direction include:

● Monitor Field Meetings with church members around the country
● Building communities of intensity around Passcode and Energy
● The Monitor content in the Sentinel
● Partnering with the MBE Library on events, (e.g. a February 2016 panel on a
cybersecurity cover story)

How will this change occur?

We will reorganize and create new teams aligned to support of our approach. They will have clear goals for creating a more focused and vital organization. Much of this change is already occurring.

In the short term, we will also be a smaller organization. The details on that are still to come. But we will restructure in a way that preserves our ability to grow. For example:

● We have built a training program that puts young people ­­- including Christian Scientists ­-­ on a path to becoming permanent Monitor employees.
● We will continue to find creative ways to go where the critical stories are, including globally.
● We will support our people in developing expertise in our target coverage areas and emerging forms of storytelling.

All of this means carefully considering where we put our resources and learning to work together in new ways. We are convinced we can build a vital and sustainable Monitor that attracts and serves a deeply engaged audience, makes a difference, and delivers on its powerful mission.