By: E&P Staff
Richard Bergenheim, former editor of The Christian Science Monitor and president of the church, was found dead of apparent natural causes July 20 in a Kansas City hotel room.
Bergenheim was in Kansas City, Mo., with his wife, Phebe, as part of a six-week speaking tour to encourage support of the Monitor and other Christian Science publications.
During his time at The Monitor, Bergenheim gained fame for his efforts to free captured Monitor reporter Jill Carroll, who was held for three months before being released in April 2006. During the time of her capitivity, Bergenheim “wheedled information out of often-warring US government agencies, negotiated with international celebrity journalists who claimed to know influential Iraqi sheikhs, upgraded the security provided to Monitor correspondents, and dealt with constant media attention,” wrote Monitor Senior Editor/Washington Bureau Correspondent David Cook in Tuesday’s edition of the paper.
Bergenheim had worked for the paper briefly in the 1960s, and became a Christian Science practitioner in 1974 and a Christian Science teacher in 1982. He served as a member of the Christian Science Board of Directors. In that capacity, he also served as editor in chief of The Christian Science Publishing Society and worked closely with the editor of the Monitor in setting strategy and overseeing editorial quality.
Bergenheim was appointed editor of the Monitor in May 2005, and soon began to push the paper toward embracing digital content. “Richard was a relentless evangelist for concentrating on digital content and delivery as the Monitor’s future,” wrote Cook in Tuesday’s piece. “This Web-first focus was on view in an opinion piece he wrote his first month as editor, calling the 1-to-2 million readers who visited csmonitor.com each month ‘probably the most significant development in the history of the Monitor.’
Bergenheim was also memorialized for his committment to innovation, journalism and his faith. “He brought unstinting enthusiasm to daily operations, driven by an omnivorous appetite for news,” wrote Cook. “He led a redesign of the daily paper. He redefined the feature sections. He demanded that every issue carry at least one story about people making a difference to improve the world, echoing Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy’s call that her newspaper ‘bless all mankind.'”
Cook closed his piece with Bergenheim’s own words, spoken in June to a group of cellege students: “‘Think of the world as filled with friends. We don’t let our friends be in trouble without trying to figure out how to help them. We care. And part of what the Monitor exists to do is increase the caring capacity of our hearts.'”