The Christian Science Publishing Society Business Information, Profile, and History
Boston, Massachusetts 02115-3195
In an age of corporate conglomerates dominating news media, the Monitor combination of church ownership, a public-service mission, and commitment to covering the world (not to mention the fact that it was founded by a woman shortly after the turn of the century, when US women didn't yet have the vote!) gives the paper a uniquely independent voice in journalism.
History of The Christian Science Publishing Society
The Christian Science Publishing Society is the nonprofit, independently run media arm of The First Church of Christ, Scientist--better known as Christian Science, a Boston-based religious sect that stresses spiritual healing. The Publishing Society is best known for its flagship venture, the Christian Science Monitor, a well-respected international daily newspaper that since its inception in 1908 has won numerous journalism awards. In addition to a book publishing program, the Publishing Society is responsible for the Christian Science Journal, devoted to providing readers with a better understanding of Christian Science; Christian Science Quarterly, offering weekly Bible lessons for self-study; Christian Science Sentinel, applying the tenets of Christian Science to world events; and the Herald of Christian Science, published in 13 languages and intended to share the message of Christian Science to a world audience. The Publishing Society also produces short-wave radio transmission of religious programming.
19th-Century Christian Science Movement
The founder of the Publishing Society, Mary Baker Eddy, was born Mary Morse Baker in 1821 and raised on a New Hampshire farm. (She took the last name Eddy in 1877 after marrying her third husband, Asa Gilbert Eddy.) As a child she suffered from an unknown nervous disorder that caused hysterical seizures and prevented her from attending school on a regular basis. Instead she was educated by her older brother, Albert, who taught her Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. She also took to writing poetry, and at a young age had her work appearing in periodicals. As a young adult she continued to endure tribulations with her father. At the age of 21 she married builder George Washington Glover and moved to Charleston, South Carolina, but shortly after she became pregnant her husband died from an illness, forcing her to return to New Hampshire, impoverished, to give birth to a son, who she would eventually have to give up. Continuing to suffer from nervous disorders and bouts of depression, which led to an abiding interest in methods of healing, she married in 1853 a homeopath and dentist named Dr. Daniel Patterson. Nine years later, at the outbreak of the Civil War, she was once again visited by misfortune. Patterson, visiting the Bull Run battlefield, was captured by Confederate troops and sent to a prison camp. Once again, Mrs. Eddy was destitute and forced to return home to live with her family as an invalid. Now 40 years of age, she reached a turning point. She turned to a Portland, Maine, mental healer, Dr. Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, who within three weeks cured her, essentially relying on the power of suggestion. Raised in a Congregational Church in New Hampshire, she viewed through a religious prism Quimby's system, which assumed that disease had a mental rather than physical cause. Her own beliefs were then crystallized in 1866, when after bedridden from a fall and three days of intensely reading the Bible, she reported experiencing a revelation. She was instantly cured, by what she called "Christian science," and was now completely devoted to promoting the truths that had been revealed to her: namely, that physical matter was illusory, and that to be well one had to come into harmony with the infinite Mind as revealed through Jesus Christ.
Within a few years, Mrs. Eddy had a group of followers and a number of practitioners who performed healing. Her beliefs were codified with the 1875 publication of Science and Health (after the original title, The Science of Life, was found to be already in use), which was financially backed by friends George Barry and Elizabeth Newhall. For the rest of her life Mrs. Eddy would continually revise and expand the book, as it took its place alongside the Bible as an essential study aide for The First Church of Christ, Scientist, which she (as head) and her followers founded in Boston in 1879. The Church's present form dates to 1892 when it was reorganized. By the time of her death in 1910, combined editions of Science and Health, which targeted an educated middle-class audience, sold approximately 400,000 copies. It also made Mrs. Eddy wealthy and a celebrity.
In 1883 the Christian Scientist Association established the Christian Scientist Publishing Company and under Mrs. Eddy's influence became involved in magazines. Its first periodical was the Journal of Christian Science, which made its debut in April 1883 and was at first mostly written and edited by Mrs. Eddy. In 1885 the publication assumed its present name, the Christian Science Journal. Unlike Science and Health, the Journal was meant to appeal to lower-income, less educated readers, presenting Christian Science tenets in digestible form through testimonials, anecdotes, and letters to and from the editor. In 1890 Mrs. Eddy established another monthly magazine, Christian Science Bible Lessons, to provide weekly Bible lessons for church services and individual study. It was subsequently renamed Christian Science Quarterly and publication was cut back to a quarterly basis. It was also in 1890 that the Church printed a four-page leaflet of hymns, published by an entity called the Christian Science Publishing Society. In 1897 the Publishing Society was incorporated and obtained a state charter. In January 1898 the corporation sold all of its assets to Mrs. Eddy, the corporation was dissolved, and she subsequently set up the current Publishing Society as a Deed of Trust. The deed also provided independence for the three trustees of the Society, an arrangement that would become a matter of controversy in the years following Mrs. Eddy's death. Later in 1898 the Christian Science Weekly (soon renamed the Christian Science Sentinel) was founded. Der Herold der Christian Science premiered in 1903, a monthly and/or quarterly magazine of articles and testimonies of healing originally published in German.
Establishing the Christian Science Monitor in 1908
The Publishing Society's best known product, its daily newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, was established in 1908 at the behest of Mrs. Eddy, who despite having retired from active involvement in the running of the Church nearly 20 years earlier still held considerable sway in the Church. She had entertained thoughts of starting a newspaper for some 25 years, disturbed by the tawdry yellow journalism practiced at the time. In 1906, at the age of 86, she and the rapidly emerging Christian Science church became the victim of that excess when Joseph Pulitzer's New York World launched a scathing crusade against her and McClure's Magazine published a virulent profile of Mrs. Eddy. Suggesting that the wealthy elderly woman was either senile and being used by others, or was simply dead and replaced by an impostor, the World was not merely satisfied with making lurid claims. It managed to convince her son to sue for control of her estate, which led to a sensational trial in 1907. Although an interview with court-appointed officials short-circuited the suit, Mrs. Eddy was clearly upset by her treatment in the press. Another important factor in her decision to launch a newspaper was a letter she received from John L. Wright in March 1908. A journalist as well as Christian Scientist, he made the case that there was a deep need for a truly independent newspaper that would be "fair, frank and honest with the people on all subjects and under whatever pressure." On July 28, 1908 she sent a letter to the directors of the Church, followed by an August 8 note to the trustees of the Publishing Society, stating: "It is my request that you start a daily newspaper at once, and call it the Christian Science Monitor. Let there be no delay. The Cause demands that it be issued now." Despite the misgivings of the directors and trustees, Mrs. Eddy's request was fulfilled in an astonishingly short period of time. On November 25, 1908 the first issue of the Monitor was published, reflecting considerable direct input from Mrs. Eddy herself. She was consulted about the type to be used and instructed that a better quality paper be used. She also chose the publication's motto (and location of it): "First the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear." She also defeated attempts to find a more commercial name for the newspaper. On the editorial page of the first issue she offered an insight into the naming of all the Publishing Society's major periodicals: "The first was The Christian Science Journal, designed to put on record the divine Science of Truth; the second I entitled Sentinel, intended to hold guard over Truth, Life and Love; the third, Der Herold der Christian Science, to proclaim the universal activity and availability of Truth; the next I named Monitor, to spread undivided the Science that operates unspent. The object of The Monitor is to injure no man, but to bless all mankind." Aside from the mention of Christian Science in its title, and one religious article that would run each day, the newspaper quickly gained a reputation for its independence and journalistic integrity and soon became a thriving enterprise.
Mrs. Eddy died in 1910 and without her presence the trustees of the Publishing Society and the directors of the Mother Church came into conflict. What became known as the Great Litigation lasted from 1917 to 1921, initiated after the trustees sued to stop the directors from interfering with their running of the Publishing Society. At issue legally was whether Mrs. Eddy's 1898 trust deed granted the trustees and the Publishing Society authority independent of the directors. Most Christian Scientists supported the directors, firmly believing the Publishing Society should unquestionably serve the needs of the Church, but in the end the courts agreed with the trustee's position that Mrs. Eddy clearly intended a double, balancing power structure between the two entities.
With the litigation settled, the Publishing Society continued to publish the works of Mrs. Eddy and the periodicals she was so instrumental in founding. The Herald, which began publishing a French edition in 1918, added other languages over the years, including the Scandinavian languages in 1930, Dutch in 1931, Spanish in 1946, Japanese and Indonesian in 1962, and Greek in 1964. Christian Science Quarterly also expanded to more than a dozen languages over the years. The Sentinel changed formats in the 1940s, eschewing its original broadsheet presentation for a digest-size that became extremely popular. The Monitor, in the meantime, became the Publishing Society's most visible face to the world. It grew into an award-winning newspaper, ironically receiving a number of Pulitzer Prizes, endowed by Mrs. Eddy's former tormentor, Joseph Pulitzer. Rather than rely heavily on wire services for international coverage, the Monitor maintained correspondents around the world as well as throughout the United States. From a financial point of view the Monitor peaked in the 1950s, after which the growth of television, rising production costs, and the expense of maintaining an international operation made it impossible for the newspaper to turn a profit. Starting in 1962 it began operating at a loss, subsidized by the Publishing Society. By the mid-1970s the Monitor deficit reached $8 million, resulting in cutbacks that led to the resignation of a number of senior writers.
Instituting a New Media Strategy in the Early 1980s
In 1982 John Hoagland joined the Publishing Society as manager and developed a strategy of extending the Monitor brand to radio and television, with financial support from the Church. On the radio side, the Publishing Society established Monitor Radio in 1984, producing a one-hour weekend program distributed by National Public Radio. In October 1985 a daily show was introduced, with an early edition added in July 1989. A short-wave radio program was initiated in March 1987 with facilities located in Maine, South Carolina, and Saipan. From 1983 to 1985 the Publishing Society produced pilots for what became a 30-minute television news program relying on the Monitor's news-gathering network. The show finally premiered in September 1988. The Publishing Society purchased a Boston television station (WQTV, channel 68) in 1986, with the original intent of operating it on a commercial basis. The strategy resulted in a larger audience share than anticipated and led to the investment of $14 million in syndicated programming. Management then decided to change course and converted WQTV into a noncommercial, public service station, essentially making it a laboratory for an even grander vision: the Monitor Channel, a cable television service. Not only was most of the syndicated programming shelved at the cost of $10 million, the Publishing Society had to buy out the contract of a high-priced consultant who had been hired to advise the station on commercial operations. Moreover, the executives involved in the nascent television operations were spending in a manner that was quite lavish in comparison to the way the Publishing Society traditionally had operated.
In 1988 the Publishing Society launched a news magazine, World Monitor, taking on such entrenched competition as Time and Newsweek. A nightly cable news program, "World Monitor," also debuted in September of that year. As a result of its rapid accumulation of media operations, the Publishing Society and the Church now faced a severe financial crunch. Although the Monitor remained the flagship product, on whose brand all the other ventures were dependent, it was the newspaper that was forced to hike its subscription price and accept cuts, while at the same time money was poured into television. According to Hoagland, the Publishing Society was committed to publishing the Monitor at a deficit, "But television will have to prove itself." Staff reductions as well as scaling back the size of the Monitor did not sit well with some of the newspaper's top editors, who in December 1988 resigned in protest. They were soon joined by several prominent staff writers.
Although the circulation of the Monitor fell following the changes, its losses also dropped, but this relative improvement did little to compensate for the mounting investments in the other media ventures. Furthermore, the Publishing Society elevated its television aspirations, deciding to launch a 24-hour, satellite-based cable programming network. In essence the directors of the Church and the trustees of the Publishing Society were gambling that television would turn profitable before they were pressured to back off. Because of Christian Scientists' beliefs, the service refused to accept pharmaceutical- or alcohol-related commercials, which handicapped its chances from the outset. By March 1992, however, the situation reached a tipping point, following press reports that the Church had borrowed $41.5 million from an employee pension fund and another $5 million from its trustee endowment in order to keep afloat its television operations, which now were consuming $1 million a week and already had cost the Church and Publishing Society a total of $250 million. Despite protestations from officials that the Monitor Channel remained on track to become profitable by 1996, prominent Church members brought enough pressure to bear that several leaders were forced to resign, the syndicated news was cancelled, and the cable service put up for sale. The Monitor and World Monitor were not affected, but WQTV was sold in 1993, while on the radio side the weekend program came to an end in June 1996 and, later, the daily shows were terminated as well. The short-wave radio facilities were eventually sold, leaving a limited slate of religious short-wave radio programming.
Several years passed before the Publishing Society and the Church recovered from their move into television. It was not until July 1998 that the Church was able to repay the pension funds. The Monitor's circulation, which fell to a low of 75,000 in 1997 (a loss of 100,000 since 1988), rebounded to 90,000 in 1998. To help the newspaper stage a comeback, the Publishing Society renovated its newsroom and invested $500,000 in a national ad campaign. The Monitor also underwent a redesign, an attempt to appeal to a wider audience, and even looked into the possibility of home delivery rather than a reliance on the U.S. mail. The Sentinel also was redesigned in 1998. Although matters clearly were improving for the Monitor and other ventures of the Publishing Society, the world of media was changing rapidly, making it all but impossible that the organization could enjoy the kind of impact it once held. Nevertheless, it remained committed to fulfilling the mission laid out by its founder more than a century earlier.
Principal Operating Units: The Christian Science Monitor; Christian Science Quarterly; The Christian Science Journal; Christian Science Sentinel; The Herald of Christian Science.
Principal Competitors: The New York Times Company; The Washington Post Company.
- Key Dates:
- 1875: Mary Baker Eddy publishes the first edition of Science and Health.
- 1897: The Christian Science Publishing Society is incorporated.
- 1898: The Publishing Society assets are sold to Mrs. Eddy, the corporation is dissolved, and a Deed of Trust is established.
- 1908: The Christian Science Monitor begins publication.
- 1961: Last year the Monitor is profitable.
- 1984: Monitor Radio is established.
- 1988: World Monitor begins publication.
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