Interview with Lindsey McGinnis, Editor at The Christian Science Monitor

Lindsey McGinnis is the Asia Editor at The Christian Science Monitor. She previously served as the Junior Editor/Writer for the Monitor’s weekly news magazine, as well as the lead writer on the Points of Progress franchise. Read her interview here with Viney Kirpal, a trained personal essay and health writer.

Viney: Hi Lindsey. Let’s begin with understanding your role as Asia editor?

Lindsey: I basically field all stories from Asia and Oceania, excluding photo essays, which go through our photo department. I’m in charge of shepherding those pieces from pitch to publication. This includes any Asia-related People Making a Difference profiles or Explainers, which are both features tailored for our weekly magazine, but also appear online and in our daily subscription product. Occasionally, I’ll field a commentary piece from Asia, such as this essay on the anniversary of Partition. But mostly I’m in the market for 900-1200 word news articles.

Over the past year, we’ve had some excellent stories from China, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Japan. A big focus for 2023 is working with freelancers to fill coverage gaps, especially in mainland Southeast Asia and South Korea. Anyone who’s interested in contributing to the Monitor from those areas, please reach out to me!

Viney: What kind of stories from freelancers work for you? Any thumb rules? 

Lindsey: The Monitor is interested in the values behind the headlines. We’ve even started organizing our website around this concept. In addition to searching by region and topic, readers can browse stories that explore themes of respect, trust, resilience, etc.

This focus on values helps distinguish the Monitor’s coverage from other publications, but more importantly, it ensures that the stories we put out into the world are constructive. So much of mainstream news fixates on what’s dividing communities, and the values approach challenges us to think differently. Take this story about capital punishment in Singapore. For most of our readers, that topic would feel quite distant, and the situation bleak. If we took a straight news approach, I doubt many would make it to the end of the article. But when framed as a community weighing safety against compassion, the story suddenly takes on wider relevance. We’re acknowledging the humanity of all the people involved, approaching the topic with an open mind, and inviting readers to do the same.

Beyond that, I’m also a fan of solutions- and progress-oriented stories. These pieces still need to be newsworthy and rigorously reported, but it’s a good place to start if you want your pitches to stand out. Look for credible hope.

Viney: I’ve often seen a blurb “Why we wrote this” in the middle of your features and articles. What does it imply?

Lindsey: The Monitor publishes about five stories a day, so, as you can imagine, editors need to be really selective and intentional about why we’re choosing to pour resources into a particular story. Before I greenlight a pitch, I’ll work with the writer to answer that question: Why are we writing this? That answer will guide their reporting.

Once a story is ready to go live, we share “Why We Wrote This” out of respect for readers. Last year, in a Washington Post column about news avoidance, journalist Amanda Ripley cited the Monitor as an example of a publication creating “News for humans.” She mentioned that by including that “Why We Wrote This” blurb in all our articles, the Monitor treated readers like “respected partners.” I love the way she framed that, because this sense of respect for the reader is actually something that drew me to the Monitor years ago.

Quick note for potential contributors: Before pitching to the Monitor, I highly recommend you take 15 minutes and read through as many “Why We Wrote This” blurbs as you can, in stories from several different regions. It’s going to give you a better understanding of the Monitor ethos and improve your pitch.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug our weekly podcast, “Why we wrote this,” which launched last year. The series gives audiences an inside look at how Monitor journalists approach the news. It’s an opportunity to dive deeper into a particular story or beat, and to hear from the reporter immersed in it. That’s also worth a listen for any aspiring Monitor contributor.

Viney: How do you feel when you reject writers, many of whom could be good, but not the best, in your eyes? Do you give them constructive feedback? Do you permit writers to re-work pitches and re-submit them to you?

Lindsey:  It doesn’t feel great. In an ideal world, I’d love to workshop every pitch, especially when I can tell a lot of research and thought went into the email. I know what it’s like to spend hours on a pitch, send it into a newspaper you think you know well, and hear crickets. But given the amount of pitches I receive, and the attention needed to shepherd stories through the production pipeline, that’s simply not possible.

That being said, I never intentionally withhold feedback. In other words, if in reading through a pitch, I have constructive suggestions, I’ll absolutely send those your way. And even if I can’t provide thorough feedback, I try to be clear and honest about why I’m declining a pitch. Whenever I notice a new name in my inbox, I’ll send them a copy of the Monitor’s pitching guidelines, which offer tips on what we’re looking for in a story. And of course, writers are always permitted to re-work and re-submit pitches, but I don’t always recommend it. Unless I’ve outlined very specific changes that would make the pitch work as a Monitor story, you’re probably better off shopping it around to other outlets. Just because it’s not a good fit for us, doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.

Viney: Please share three new tips that could help aspiring writers become better with each piece.

Lindsey: (i) Think hard about the values that are driving your story, and not just when you’re pitching to the Monitor. When I think back to my days as a local reporter, the values lens would have helped focus my reporting and allowed me to reach the level of nuance and depth I wanted faster. Even if you don’t intend to frame a piece as a “Resilience” story or a “Compassion” story, understanding the values at play will inevitably lead to a richer piece.

(ii) Challenge yourself on sourcing. Don’t just talk to the first experts that appear on a Google search. Take a look at your recent pieces – do you mostly talk to men? Are there women in the field who you could reach out to next time? Are you seeking out perspectives from different classes, castes, ages, education levels, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds? Are you speaking with LGBTQ people in stories that aren’t specifically about LGBTQ rights? Expanding your source network can seem daunting, but it becomes easier with practice, and it’s definitely worth the effort.

(iii) Make a habit of asking sources what journalists get wrong. I would almost always end my interviews with some variation of that question: What do people misunderstand about your work? What do journalists get wrong about this topic? It can sometimes catch people off guard, but I’ve had sources really surprise me with their answers (even if it comes days later via text). At the very least, it’s a way to get ahead of mistakes before you start writing and foster trust with your source.

Viney: Thank you, Lindsey for a delightful interview! I’m sure readers would love to pitch you. Lindsey can be reached at





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