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Life, death and the Christian Science Monitor

Posted on | October 29, 2008 | No Comments

We could spend all our blogging days writing obituaries of one form or another, but something about the Christian Science Monitor’s killing its print edition staggers me. I think it was because the really unthinkable really could happen, and that’s the death of once major vital organs of journalism (at least in print form).
I got into journalism because I wanted to write, and until the Great American Novel emerged from my soul (still waiting, btw), I figured that writing for newspapers would be a good way to put food on the table. It was.
Early in that journey, models of great journalism presented themselves. The New York Times obviously. I went to school at UCLA, and the Los Angeles of the late ’70s and early ’80s was all about the L.A. Times, especially those fabulous page 1 features. Every day I picked up The Times, I knew there would be at least one or two excellent stories somewhere in the paper.
But in those college days, the real intellectual’s paper was the Christian Science Monitor. It was winning Pulitzers left and right. Its reporters seemed to be just where they needed to be at the right time. They beat The New York Times; they beat everybody when it counted.
I was so enamored I applied for an internship. I got a very nice letter back from the managing editor saying something to the effect that it helps if you’re an actual Christian Scientist but that my stuff looked good and I should keep up the good work.
The Monitor has fallen off the national journalism radar screen in the past decade and certainly off mine. That’s no fault of theirs. It could very well be that the type of Grade A journalism they’ve practiced for 100 years becomes–like all other Grade A journalism–a bizarre, amusing anachronism in our age of instant, free, stupid, useless but highly entertaining information.
The good news is that The Monitor will continue its mission online.
The bad news is who’s next?
(And before you go all “it’s the same journalism; it’s just a different distribution mechanism, faster, freer, better” take your beer glass and shove it in your ear. It’s not the same journalism nor is it the same consumption experience, never will be. If you don’t get that, you’re not paying attention).

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No Responses to “Life, death and the Christian Science Monitor”

  1. Loring Wirbel
    October 30th, 2008 @ 8:57 am

    Thank you for that last parenthetical paragraph. I’m finding the saying I’m using the most these days is, “Oh, put a sock in it.” Now, that encourages dialog.

  2. Frank
    October 30th, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

    Whoa, gettin’ a little cranky here! If you want to argue that web only media still suck, I probably would agree. But I still would like to hear a good argument about why paper is intrinsically for journalism than electrons.

  3. Frank
    October 30th, 2008 @ 1:59 pm

    Whoa, gettin’ a little cranky here! If you want to argue that web only media still suck, I probably would agree. But I still would like to hear a good argument about why paper is intrinsically for better journalism than electrons.

  4. Lou Covey
    October 30th, 2008 @ 8:11 pm

    Well, I can give you one. Most studies (here’s one show that people retain information better when they read it in print then when the read it online.
    One of the basic problems is that reading text on a screen is more difficult for human eyes. Online content in the form of video and audio is better retained than on radio or television for the same reason print text is better than online text.
    Once we lose real print, we start dumbing down the populace for real.

  5. Loring Wirbel
    October 31st, 2008 @ 7:54 am

    That applies to more than newspapers, Lou. Reading a complex book, like the latest Pynchon or Stephenson novel, simply can’t be done on a Kindle with any sense of real retention or analysis.

  6. Anonymous
    December 23rd, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

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