Why the Christian Science Monitor may still matter

The daily newspaper is no more. It’s an operation that loses money prodigiously and may not have a defined place in journalism these days. Plus, that whole faith-based thing is guaranteed to alienate at least a few folks.

But here’s what I think the Monitor offers. In a world where Facebook may not itself break news, but it is the pathway to news, providing a filter to news you need is important. That news people “need” is usually, however, news that interests them and connects with us on one or more levels. What’s the answer to that? Curation.

It can be informal — that guy who e-mails, Facebook links and tweets all sorts of stuff he stumbles upon. It can be targeted, as by industry or subject or even columnist, and self-done, as in RSS feeds, bookmarks or simply searching.

What may be missing is that broad paintbrush of news and interests that appeals to a thinking (and possibly wealthier) audience — the cornucopia that’s not up-to-the-second news but enlarges your reality. That’s where the Christian Science Monitor comes in.

Just this week, I’ve had access to stories such as:
Culture: J.K. Rowling‘s latest plagiarism accusation, Twitter’s Google boost, the story behind the latest viral video sensation, a light-hearted case made for the Westminster Dog Show over the Olympics, why fidelity matters.
Afghanistan: An examination of why Pakistan is now arresting Taliban, the geopolitical fight for influence in Afghanistan, asking the unthinkable: Does bin Laden matter?
Domestic: Farm food at school, astronauts’ latest space station work, the dangerous U.S.-China relationship, the family-unfriendly U.S., guarding against terror from a CSM view.
International: Malaysia caning adulterous women, a CSM op-ed on peace efforts in Northern Ireland, small signs of hope in Zimbabwe.
Energy: Prisons keeping the lights on through wind, nuclear power‘s budget problem, one homeowner’s solar power lesson, the Swedes and the environment.

That’s without the Monitor publishing on Presidents Day, and only examining its main e-mail newsletter.
I defy you to find a newsletter linking to internal original reporting (i.e. not Slate’s the Slatest) with that breadth and depth (here, Slate’s actual journalism may be a counterargument), or many people who regularly seek out and come across such a mix of stories without great effort (or a lot of time in Google Reader or the like).

Sure, not everything is useful. And the Monitor’s daily e-mail has a disturbing trend of horrible typos and judgment flubs — the “Change the Subject line” subject line, the MILF incident, and this HTML/link issue. But it’s wide-ranging, much of it is material you won’t find elsewhere or won’t think to look for, and it’s generally serious and thoughtful.

The next step is up to the Monitor. It needs to leverage its credibility, experience and mix of journalism to extend the brand — becoming not just a curator of sorts with internal content, but building off that into collecting the best of the rest of the Web. Because, after all, there are many folks communicating all sorts of news and information and earning well-deserved reputations as thoughtful curators, but saving the time and expense of as much original reporting. The CSM has a chance to be respected and successful  in both areas.  And maybe even make a few bucks in the process.

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