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Posted by on Jan 19, 2014 in Business, Media | 2 comments

The Christian Science Monitor rises again (digitally)

christian-science-monitor_building_boston (2)

I have to admit I’m biased about this story which is a story of journalistic good news.

The proudest moments in my newspaper career came when I wrote for The Christian Science Monitor as a freelance from New Delhi, India (byline “Special to The Christian Science Monitor”) from 1973 to 1975, and when I served as The Monitor’s Special Correspondent (“full time contributor” is the way an editor described it to me) from Madrid, Spain from 1975 – 1978 (after the death of Francisco Franco until Spain voted on its first democratic constitution since the civil war. I replaced the legendary Richard Mowrer and I did short and long features, including major long-form features on the Basque Country and an exclusive interview with then Socialist Party bigwig Felipe Gonzales, who later became Prime Minister).

I subscribed to The Monitor when I was a student at Colgate University and after and when I started The Moderate Voice in 2003 linked to it often. In fact, a goal in 2014 is to link to it more and more.

But here’s a journalism good news story: yes, there is life beyond a print edition. The no-more-daily-print-edition Monitor has made its online edition WORK:

John Yemma arrived as editor of The Christian Science Monitor in 2008, at one of the lowest moments of the modern newspaper industry. Within a few months, the century-old newspaper had decided radical change was needed: abandoning daily printing and diving headfirst into the web. Although the Monitor was always an unusual newspaper — distributed by mail, global in scope, subsidized by the Church of Christ, Scientist — it was a harbinger for some of the print-reductions we’ve seen in places like New Orleans, Portland, Cleveland, and Toronto since. The Monitor has indeed built traffic to to many multiples of its previous level, as well as expanded into speciality paid-products like the Frontiers Market Monitor.

This month, Yemma steps down after five years as editor. Before his editorship, he also spent 20 years working for news organizations including The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News, and United Press International. “I think the Monitor is in amazingly good hands and we’re on a pretty good glide-path too. It seemed like a good time to step down,” Yemma told me.

I recently spoke with Yemma about the early days of the print-to-digital transition of the Monitor, the role of quizzes and games in serious journalism, and how the Monitor has diversified its revenue stream and decreased its subsidy from the church. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

Go to the link to read the interviews.

But, yes, The Christian Science Monitor — a kind of guardian of the serious journalism that seems to be shrinking from our media scene — has risen again.