the more things stay the same, the more i want them to change

The Christian Science Monitor: A fair news source?

Contribution cross-post with The Gay Atheist:

The Christian Science Monitor: A fair news source?

There were some interesting (and disappointing) rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court today, which had me searching for more information on specifics that were not supplied by CNN. In a Google News search, I was lead to the Christian Science Monitor to read about the SCOTUS decision that gave the Westboro Baptist Church a win today. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.

When I was half-way through the article with my anger growing over the stance of SCOTUS, I noticed a beautiful picture in the sidebar. It was part of the CS Monitor's "Picture of the Day" feature. You really should see it, so I'll try and direct-link it here (big blogging faux-pas, but hopefully they'll forgive me this one transgression):



The image is from the opening ceremony of the Asian Youth Games, but that's not really relevant right now. What is relevant is how this changed my thought process - I was getting angry, angry at the news, and a visual of more happy news elsewhere in the world was a kind of relief. It had a balancing, calming effect on me, kind of reinforcing my natural opinion that there is much good in the world despite all of our human atrocities.

Thinking this, I finished reading the article. A very fair, non-judgemental presentation of the facts of the case. Wait a minute! Isn't this the Christian Science Monitor, tabloid of those whacked-out Christian Scientists who don't take their sick kids to doctors. I had to learn more, and again, I was pleasantly surprised. In their own words:

The Monitor is recognized for its balanced, insightful take on the news, and for the fresh, independent voice it offers.
They state that they've won multiple Pulitzer Prizes for their thorough investigative journalism, that they have staff and non-staff correspondents all over the world, and that non-Christian Scientists word side-by-side with members of the church. Despite having the backing of the Christian Science church, they make assurances that their journalistic integrity is just as important to them as their faith, and that while the Church has oversight, they rarely use their editorial control to change anything submitted for print. As evidence of their impartiality and independence, they relate the story of the paper's founding by Mary Baker Eddy as a direct result of a malicious campaign, both in court and in print, by Joseph Pulitzer at the New York World.

There are quite a lot of interesting tidbits on their about page, this one I being my favorite:
Eddy received a long letter from a local journalist and Christian Scientist, John L. Wright. In it, he told her he felt there was a growing need for a daily newspaper that 'will place principle before dividends, and that will be fair, frank and honest with the people on all subjects and under whatever pressure' - a truly independent voice not controlled by 'commercial and political monopolists.'
I have to say, I found all of this information very shocking because in my experience, fair and unbiased reporting is an oxymoron with religion. I would use my favorite whipping boy, Fox News, as an example of this, but they apparently aren't aware of this case: nowhere in their reporting of the Supreme Court rulings today is their any mention of the Westboro case, and in an article from yesterday summarizing the cases that were about to be decided (and those that SCOTUS will hear this Fall), the case is conspicuously left out.

My shock over the idea of conservative Christians being able to report the news without bias quickly led to skepticism, so I popped over to Wikipedia. There was more enlightening information there, both on the Monitor, and Christian Science itself. Basically everything that the Monitor had claimed about their practices was supported in the Wikipedia article*, which included the following quote from two separate journalistic sources:
The paper has been known for avoiding sensationalism, producing a "distinctive brand of nonhysterical journalism".
As for Christian Science itself, I think I will have to reevaluate my opinion of them as being conservative. Despite the odd belief about the healing power of prayer, it seems to be a very accepting, humble, and positive religion. But that discussion is for another day.

As I wrap this up, I have to admit that I am very impressed with the integrity and commitment of the Christian Science Monitor. I have long been dissatisfied with the gaping holes in CNN's reporting, especially of international news. I have decided to make the CS Monitor my first news source for the short-term. Being a skeptic at heart, I am not 100% convinced that they are 100% unbiased, but open-mindedness is also dear to my heart, so I've decided to take a chance on a test-drive. All new relationships deserve a trial period to test for compatibility, right?

Yes, I am very aware of the current atmosphere to distrust Wikipedia as an impartial source. But I also know that Wikipedia is aware of the problems there, and are committed to policing bad reporting in their database. I feel confident that Wikipedia is still the best source for all types of background information and facts reported in a concise manner at a single source.

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