Image via Wikipedia
This week, the news that the Christian Science Monitor will cease its daily print edition come April 2009 made a relatively big splash in publishing circles, judging by the emails and mainstream media coverage I saw. By changing from daily to weekly, the Christian Science Monitor is the first “national newspaper” to throw in the towel on print, according to the New York Times.
Big news? Forgive me, but it’s not big, and it’s not about print/online really. The Christian Science Monitor isn’t a national newspaper but a sometimes-respectable newspaper published by a church and delivered through the mail to just over 50,000 people (a smaller circulation than the Anchorage Daily News, for example). The hotel drop doesn’t happen, the newsstand isn’t a distribution point, and in the modern era, it’s pretty marginal.
Despite Pulitzer Prizes in the past, I haven’t read a Christian Science Monitor in years, in print or online. From a personal perspective, the coverage of it surprised me in that “he’s still alive?” kind of way, like you feel when someone mentions Dom DeLuise or Shaun Cassidy.
The paper has struggled since the 1980s, with repeated layoffs, and hasn’t contributed revenue in decades. It’s a church-funded news outlet, albeit an occasionally admirable one.
Lastly, the organization supporting it holds to tenets that cause unnecessary suffering and early death by denying children and others proper medical care in the name of religious freedom. I have a hard time sympathizing with the financial travails of a newspaper it owns.
While the cessation of print is the story in the mainstream media, perhaps a more helpful analysis would talk about the commoditization of traditional journalistic content in recent years or the anachronistic nature of the organization supporting the paper.
Maybe those two factors matter more than whether they deliver in paper or online.