Clean Journalism

 

The Rev. William P. McKenzie

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

"The highest ideal of journalism is to interpret manhood and to be silent in regard to the record of savagery."

This was the keynote of the Rev. William P. McKenzie's address in Simpson auditorium last night on "Clean Journalism." Dr. McKenzie is one of three trustees of The Christian Science Monitor, a daily paper published in Boston, Mass., and with an international circulation. Elsewhere in his talk he qualified his first statement by asserting that the only good to he accomplished through the publicity accorded crime in the daily press comes through indicating the futility of a life given over to criminal endeavor.

Summed up, Dr. McKenzie's view is that a newspaper should be not a brief and abstract chronicle of crimes, but a record of the achievements of mankind that make for better citizenship and for the uplift of humanity. To this he adds, however, that newspapers should not preach, at least in their news columns.

Dr. McKenzie was introduced by T. K. Gibbon, editor of The Herald, who explained that the modern newspaper makes many concessions to the popular demand of its readers, concessions which are at variance with the ideals of its proprietors and which are dictated by the law of financial self-preservation. Mr. Gibbon admitted that there are a few newspaper publishers that capitalize crime and scandal, just as there are men outside of the newspaper business who grow wealthy by oppressing women and little children, but he expressed a belief that the ideals of most publishers are high, and that they live up to them as nearly as possible. He referred to The Christian Science Monitor as an experiment in daily journalism of greater interest to publishers than to any other class of people, and expressed a hope and belief that it will pave the way for a cleaner journalism, thus enabling publishers of daily papers without church backing to approach more nearly to their ideals of what clean journalism should be.

 

High Ideals in Journalism

Dr. McKenzie's address was directed first to newspaper making generally and, more specifically, to the one paper with which he personally is connected.

"It is a privilege of newspapers properly conducted," he said, "to print news which shall instruct their readers in the meanings of citizenship Savagery has no proper place in citizenship, and consequently the newspaper that devotes much space to this kind of news fails to fulfill its highest purpose. A good newspaper uncovers error and wrongdoing only to point out the right way.

"As a means of disseminating information newspapers are an important factor in civilized life, for as soon as men and women fully understand a problem the majority always rises up on the right side. For this reason they should be made to understand that no agency is so well equipped for this purpose as the modern newspaper. Civilized man is not satisfied merely to be fed himself while others are hungry. When he is informed of abuses he realizes his responsibility not to himself alone, but his neighbor.

"So much news comes pouring into a newspaper office that the task of selection always is a most difficult one. The Christian Science Monitor writers restate all news that comes to them, to put heart into it and to develop those features which may encourage men and women to do right. Our ideal of clean journalism is directly opposed to the idea of the poet when he wrote, 'The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones." We believe the good a man does should be recognized; our endeavor is to print a record of it which shall be readable and interesting.

 

Record of Civilization

"Ideal journalism will not endeavor to arouse emotional antagonisms nor to magnify differences between nations. It should be both a record of civilization and an inspiration thereto. Locally the aim of a newspaper should be to make the city in which it is published a good place to live in, not merely a good place to make money. The city, as some one has said, is a melting pot for men. It offers opportunity for working out the formation and reformation of man and the newspaper has a large share in that work.

"It is easy to distort facts, easy to stir up men to hatred and bitterness by exposing dishonesty in others. Realizing this truth the endeavor of the Monitor has been to interpret the dishonesty of men rather than to find fault with that dishonesty. The ideal of a newspaper should be not to excite evil thoughts, but to interpret events, to show that honesty is not the best policy merely, but principle and power as well. Some of the Monitor's best friends have been journalists and editors, because the ideal journalist or editor is the man who expresses the best of his time, who gives to his readers the clearest thought with regard to right conduct.

"We have in this country some newspapers that practically glorify criminals. They print every little fact that can be gleaned about the criminal. They tell his likes and his dislikes. They comment upon his taste in literature. They give publicity to his opinions on all sorts of matters about which he knows little or nothing of any value. Suppose instead those papers were to interpret the futility of a life that ends in crime. What value can there be in glorifying the wrongdoer so that other men, mistaking notoriety for fame, may come to desire what Herbert Spencer called the 'immortality of shame?'

 

Agents for Fostering Good

"The real ideal of journalism is the presentation of those influences that bring out the fellowship of all men, make for universal peace, enable the individual man to feel a sense of responsibility for all mankind and encourage the man who is trying to do right, thus fostering good until the time comes when what was hoped for becomes indeed a fact."

Elsewhere in his address, speaking more directly of his own paper, McKenzie explained that within five or six months of its first issue it had become apparent that The Christian Science Monitor was going to be a success, a fact he attributed to the loyalty of men and women who been benefited by Christian Science and who were eager to show their gratitude. The paper, he said, circulates to all parts of the world, is to be found in all American consular offices, in public libraries, free reading rooms and in the reading rooms of unions and workingmen's clubs.

"Oftentimes," he continued, "the question is asked: 'How can a newspaper be made interesting when it doesn't reach the people until a week or ten days after it has been published?' I answer this by explaining that the Monitor has correspondents in all part of the world who endeavor to present news so that it will have what we call magazine interest. That has been forced upon the management. Our ideal is to publish a record of civilization and such news as will inspire humanity to better things. Murder and scandal are absent from our pages. On the other hand, we print much genuine news that doesn't appear at all in the other papers. I have had experienced newspaper men tell me that our cable page the page on which appears our foreign news is the best in the country; and I can explain that in part at least by telling you that there are among our correspondents many capable men, men who are authorities on the subjects of which they write and who couldn't be hired to write for other papers because the money offered would be no inducement to them. They write for us from a spirit of gratitude.

 

Christian Monitor's Purpose

"Now, how about results? What have we accomplished? We have, we believe, solved at least one home problem of grave import. It has been a problem of many persons to keep their children uncontaminated by things they ought not to know and upon which the average newspaper gives them full information. At the same time both parents and teachers realize that children should not grow up without a knowledge of current events. Where were they to get it? Formerly there was no medium, but the Monitor came as a Godsend to those parents and teachers, and today it gives the children the information they need without giving them also information which can only be harmful to them. Then, too, the Monitor prints not merely a news record of the world, but also brief articles of the same vital interest as the magazines. So much for the home. Now let us consider prisons and reformatories.

"Civilization's purpose in imprisoning offenders is not to revenge itself but to educate wrongdoers into the way of right living. Newspapers ordinarily give too much space to the doings of criminals, and immature minds seemingly find something praiseworthy and desirable in being so discussed. Thus a record of crime tends to increase criminality, and for this reason prisoners in our penal institutions often are denied papers, though some prisons which have heretofore barred out all newspapers now admit the Monitor."

Further Dr. McKenzie said that the purpose of the paper was not to propagate Christian Science, but to make people acquainted with the results of Christian Science. He added that it is non-partisan in politics, and that it is today in a better position than any other paper in the country to attain to the ideal of its editors of what "clean journalism" should be.

The address was received with attention by a large audience.

 

[Delivered Nov. 26, 1910, at Simpson Auditorium and published in The Los Angeles Herald, Nov. 27, 1910.

[Even before the first issue of The Christian Science Monitor rolled off the presses, Rev. McKenzie was cherishing ideas in line with the remarks made above, as he wrote to its founder, Mary Baker Eddy:

[Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 29, 1908.

[Wise and Beloved Leader: How I thank you out of my heart's deepest affection for the words from Colossians, 3:24, with which you annotated the letter we sent reporting progress. It is wonderful how you know what is needed for the comfort and guidance of your friends and servants in this work. Unless our Monitor expresses more than business success and wisdom of human minds, what is our labor worth? Amid the contending ambitions of many minds comes like music the reassurance, "Ye serve the Lord Christ." This truly is the purpose of the enterprise, namely, to serve mankind by bringing thought into loving obedience to the Christ-mind. I mark on the margin Fenton's translation of 2 Corinthians, 10:4-6.

["For the weapons of our campaign are not corporeal: but powers from God, for the purpose of destroying fortresses; defeating opponents, and every pride exalting itself against the knowledge of God; and subduing every thought to the discipline of the Messiah; and competent to expel every mutineer, so that your discipline may be perfect."

[Lovingly ever,

 

[Wm. P. McKenzie.]

 

 

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