EDITORIAL LETTERS

When Hunches and Ploys Lead to 'Scoops' As a result of a newsman's curiosity, courage, and tenacity, and yes, some luck, Monitor correspondent David Rohde has verified the fears of Bosnian Muslim victims that their men, separated from their families after the capture of United Nations ''safe havens'' in Bosnia, were massacred. Mr. Rohde's careful authentication and his balanced presentation of what he learned is high-quality and praiseworthy journalism. In his appearance on Public Broadcasting's TV program ''Washington Week in Review,'' Aug. 25, he downplayed his exploit. In an article the same day in the Monitor he detailed how he had located the burial grounds and discovered one partially exposed body. [Editor's Note: Rohde's story described the final phase of a three-day inspection near the fallen UN ''safe areas'' of Srebrenica and Zepa. A combination of ruses, requests to travel alone, and mistakes by Bosnian Serb authorities allowed Rohde to sidestep the usual Bosnian Serb-controlled press convoy. Ignoring instructions from Bosnian Serb officials to avoid certain areas, Rohde discovered evidence that perhaps hundreds of Muslim prisoners were massacred and tortured in the villages of Nova Kasaba and Bratunac.] He compared a fuzzy copy of a US surveillance satellite photo with terrain features to locate the disturbed earth that indicated the area of mass graves. His luck was in being only casually observed by the Bosnian Serb soldiers and allowed to continue his exploration unchallenged. Foreign correspondents, such as Rohde, readily agree that their ''scoops'' are often the result of having dogged determination based initially on a hunch, and then working out the circumstances to make pursuing the hunch possible. I was for many years an overseas correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and recall when colleagues - that is, competitors - scored exclusives: I could only admire their work while bearing up under the unhappiness of my foreign editor. Rohde used a few ploys to gather his exclusive, managing to mask his interest in the newly disturbed fields and so wander among the Bosnian Serb troops without challenge, even though he was harassed by random rifle shots. He acknowledges that he was nervous about ''pushing my luck.'' I know that feeling, too. Particularly when I was a Stars and Stripes correspondent in World War II and agreed to accompany an infantry battalion on ''a Mediterranean cruise'' off the coast of Sicily without knowing its mission. It turned out to be a surprise raid behind German lines to soften up the enemy front holding up our general advance. The operation, devised by Gen. George Patton, proved to be a worldwide exclusive for me. Luck is all part of the news-gathering business. But Rohde's accomplishment was much more. Jack Foisie Monmouth, Ore. No justification for rape camps The opinion-page article ''Bosnia: a Conundrum for the US,'' Aug. 23, appears to be an apology for the Serbs in Bosnia. While I am not a professor of history, I can drive a truck through the author's arguments, which I see as creatively lopsided. Instead, my only response to the author and to other defenders of Serb action is this: There is no desire for freedom, or resistance to ''Islamic encroachment,'' or any other argument whatsoever, that can justify rape camps, death camps, and genocide as national policies being conducted under the encouragement of the Serb leaders, Karadzic and Milosevic. And where are the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church leaders? Instead of occasional, muted calls for peace, shouldn't they be departing from the WWII pattern and be issuing threats of ex-communication? Jeff H. Siddiqui Lynnwood, Wash. Standing up to violence on screen I liked the general direction of the argument against too much sex and violence in the media in the editorial ''Changing the Plot,'' Aug. 28, but wondered why ''the old industry argument 'we only give 'em what they want' won't wash.'' I thought the industry, in large part, was still governed by ratings. As to the best way to change things, yes, writing to ''CEOs and division bosses'' is a democratic way. I believe that local individual efforts are the most effective form of self-defense against media imposition. P. Taylor Toronto

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