From smoke signals to the Internet, communication continues to play an important role in shaping our view of the world. But unless the information we receive is presented in a factual and unbiased manner, it can be hurtful.
In honor of “Woman’s History Month,” let’s take a look at how the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, handled persecution from the media. It was her willingness to confront the “fake news” of her day that led to the establishment of the Christian Science Monitor in 1908, a Pulitzer Prize-winning news organization, still operating today, which has as its mission, “to injure no man, but to bless all mankind.”
Eddy had become a prominent figure through her efforts to start a new religious organization. Guided by her love for the Bible, she spent years searching for, and eventually discovering, what she understood to be the divine “laws of God” governing humanity – laws that were put to the test through her healing of herself and others through prayer.
In 1875, she presented her discovery in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” wanting it to be available to everyone to make practical in their daily lives.
Eddy would go on to found The First Church of Christ, Scientist, as well as The Christian Science Publishing Society, publishers of a number of periodicals designed to support the individual application of Christian Science to everyday needs, including better health.
After the dedication of her church, Eddy found herself in the public spotlight. In 1907, two reporters were dispatched to develop a story based upon what turned out to be a baseless rumor that Eddy was dying, or perhaps already dead. After their interview with Eddy, the reporters found her “well preserved for her years,” and they were satisfied with the soundness of both her mental and physical condition.
However, the findings of the reporters were never printed in the newspaper. Instead, the article suggested that Eddy was being controlled by members of her household. A lawsuit was filed, and Eddy was subjected to a media feeding frenzy. After months of sensational and unsubstantiated news, the lawsuit was dropped.
During this time, publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst instructed his newspapers not to attack Eddy. This may be due to an incident that took place in 1903. Hearst’s baby boy had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. After medical resources were exhausted, he solicited the services of a Christian Science practitioner and the boy was healed overnight. Years later, Hearst said of his son, “[he] is now a little over six feet tall, and weighs 180 pounds and runs a newspaper considerably better than his father can.”
Mary Baker Eddy’s desire for the improvement of mankind, reflected in her founding of a newspaper charged with presenting solution-oriented journalism to its readers – an “agenda for prayer” as it’s often characterized – and continues to have a positive impact on the way news is presented and the manner in which it is read and utilized.