Articles from the October 1997 Unification News


Interview with Michael Marshall Executive Editor, The World & I

Interview by Elisabeth Seidel-Barrytown, NY

In what way does The Washington Times and The World & I represent a new form of journalism? How do you convey a high ethical standard?

I think all the publications in the corporation are distinctive for taking moral issues seriously, for being active in reporting on the "culture wars" if you will. The daily newspaper, for example, now publishes a "Family Times" supplement once a week. Also, I think we share an attitude that journalists have some responsibility for the state of society. We can contribute to it getting better or worse. It is a myth that you can stand on the sidelines as a neutral observer.

We don't try to preach a particular viewpoint but we try to get readers to think about the moral choices we make in life, as individuals and as a society, and the consequences that they have. If someone asks: "What's wrong with illegitimacy?" you can say that it is against God's law, or you can point out that kids from single-parent homes do significantly worse as a group when it comes to school performance, drug use, involvement in crime and the like, than kids growing up with two parents. I see us as doing the latter. Please tell us more about the interaction between The Washington Times (daily newspaper), its weekly edition, and The World & I. You are now in the same building. Does this set-up provide a source of mutual stimulation?

We don't have any formal joint projects with the newspaper but of course we read each others' stories, talk to one another about issues, share ideas and it makes us both better. Widens our perspective. In the founder’s address for the 15th anniversary of The Washington Times, Rev. Moon said he will now expand the existing media foundation led by The Washington Times to 185 countries. What are your plans for achieving this goal?

The founder has always considered that journalism tends to be superficial. It pursues the quick hit -- news today forgotten tomorrow. He wanted to bring the knowledge, the analytical powers, and the longer term perspective of good scholars into journalism and conceived The World & I as a vehicle for that. That is why we describe our goal as a marriage between scholarship and journalism.

Also he wanted it to be international in scope, so that readers could feel a part of one world rather than nationalistic or isolationist. And interdisciplinary to encourage breadth in people's interests.Many of us who do not live in the Washington, DC area receive The Washington Times weekly edition. I love it. Its format and news presentation is highly appealing. Reading this paper once a week allows me to know what is going on. After publishing The Washington Times Weekly, what response did you have so far from the American people?

During the past year we surveyed about a hundred of our core subscribers to see what they liked about the magazine. They enjoyed the variety of our coverage and the fact that we took an in-depth look at issues, often presenting more than one point of view. So they felt that we respected their intelligence but at the same time they were learning something new.

One reader said each issue of The World & I was like a college course. Another, a minister, said he regarded the magazine as his moral benchmark in judging contemporary issues. I speak to many people about my beliefs and convictions. Often I give them The World & I, hoping that it will do the talking. How do you see The World & I as an instrument for creating a better world?

I think we make an impact in a number of ways. As far as our global outlook is concerned I think it serves to help readers feel connected to people in other countries and cultures, to understand something about them that is personal and not abstract. That sort of consciousness helps to counter the trend to isolationism or ethnic self-centeredness that is one contemporary response to globalization. It also raises the question: What set of ideas and values can bridge the differences between cultures and the ensuing clashes as the shrinking world forces us closer together. In the evening, instead of putting on the TV, I look at the beautiful photographs in The World & I and browse through the magazine, being uplifted and relaxed. I feel connected to many different cultures of the world, learning about their history and present situation. Based on your global outlook, how do you make an impact on society?

There is an internal and external aspect to transforming world culture. The internal is more religious and spiritual. The external deals with questions of culture, the arts, the world of learning and how the products of these realms of human activity can promote and support harmonious families and a harmonious society. I see us dealing with that external realm, a sort of new god-centered Renaissance. You are saying that The World & I is the magazine for education. Could you please comment on this point?

Some 7000 copies of the magazine go into schools each month. Each one is accompanied by a Teacher's Guide, compiled for us by professional educators, that take nine or ten articles in that issue and suggest a lesson plan and student activities based on the articles. It's especially popular with English teachers and Social Studies teachers. In junior high schools and high schools, principals and teachers face serious challenges: drugs, free sex, violence and often a stubborn attitude of disrespect. Teachers need a lot of support from a magazine like yours. Could you comment on the response from teachers, in particular with reference to the "teacher’s guide"?

Teachers told us they like to use it because of the variety of material it contains and the depth and seriousness of the thought. Our pro-con articles are popular for helping students to consider the arguments on both sides of an issue. Several teachers told us they used it as an antidote to the People magazine, MTV, sound bite culture most of their students are immersed in. We asked one teacher who told us this what her kids thought of the magazine. "They don't like it," she replied. "It makes them think." Despite that its certainly something schools can benefit greatly from. For the coming year, what is your goal and vision for The World & I?

In the coming year we want to expand our circulation base in education and are exploring the market in community colleges and adult education courses. One adult education college in Texas has a course on contemporary issues based on The World & I. We would like to see more of that.In one of your recent issues, you presented an article on character education. Do you think you can contribute to the much-needed revival of America’s public school system?

We also want to gain more exposure for and public recognition of some of our articles. "Is Religion Good For Your Health?" summarized a serious clinical study of the impact of faith, prayer and meditation on the health and recovery of patients. Shortly after we came out Time and Newsweek both ran cover stories on the same topic. We ran an excellent expose of Medicare fraud also that came out around the same time as reports in the daily news media. That's pretty good for a monthly magazine and of course we offered much more meat in our piece. We want to gain greater recognition for such articles. How about Christmas shopping this year and giving a gift subscription for The World & I?

The World & I is a great Christmas present. For parents and relatives who are retired and have time and active minds there is plenty to read. For high school and college age nieces, nephews and friends there is plenty of good material both for general education and for class assignments. There is something there for all the family. And a very generous rate is available for those gift subscriptions.

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