New look for the Monitor

If people really consumed the kind of news they tell pollsters they want, The Christian Science Monitor would be in much better shape than it is today. Monitor The Monitor is thoughtful and smart with a clear sense of mission and a notable disdain for sensationalism. Unfortunately, all those things also make it an anachronism in today's frantic and frothy news environment. And not surprisingly, the paper has struggled big time with circulation (it is currently down to about 59,000) and revenue problems that have spawned real concerns about its future.

In 2004, the Monitor convened a Blue Ribbon Committee to develop some new business strategies and it came up with suggestions ranging from partnering with other organizations to charging for online content. Then in May of this year, in a development that seemed to catch many people by surprise, the paper abruptly appointed Richard C. Bergenheim, a former member of the Christian Science Board of Directors, to replace Paul Van Slambrouck as editor. Bergenheim (The Monitor also took the occasion to announce that it was reducing the newsroom staff by 10 or 15 positions.)

All of these factors have led to increasing buzz that the Monitor might be preparing for a new life as an online product only. Alex Beam's Globe column

For the record, in an editor's note written in May, Bergenheim characterized the fact that the paper has less than 60,000 subscribers but more than 1.8 million visitors to the web site each month as "probably the most significant development in the history of the Monitor." But he added: "This does not translate, as some fear, into ceasing to print our paper."

Those sentiments would seem to be borne out by the fact that this Friday, the dead tree version of the Monitor will unveil a redesign that will include:
a) a new look for the headline type
b) several prominent page 1 teasers that will highlight stories inside the paper
c) a new six-page Friday Weekend section that will focus on pop culture, TV, sports, entertainment news, movies etc.

A Monitor spokeswoman said the new look is intented to make the paper more "accessible" and "visually appealing." And the Weekend section certainly seems like a concession to more contemporary tastes. This may not solve the systemic distribution and deadline problems that have plagued the Monitor, but it constitutes some investment in the print product.

And as Bergenheim himself has said, a little prayer wouldn't hurt either.
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