Reporters on the Job

FAMILIAR BUZZ, POP: When news broke of the deployment of AC-130 Specter gunships over Kandahar, correspondent Scott Peterson had an idea of what people there would see. He first encountered these planes in Somalia in June 1993. To destroy the weapons stores and house of warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid, the planes fired 105mm Howitzers from their underbellies from 14,000 feet up.

"You knew when they were about to attack, because a very distinct buzz would filter down from the night sky," Scott says. "Every time they fired, there was a distant pop, followed almost immediately by a flat, deep thud, pa-Daa, pa-Daa, pa-Daa."

What struck Scott most was the weapon's remarkable accuracy. Many targets were just 400 to 800 yards away from where journalists had a bird's-eye view. "Every round landed precisely within the perimeter of General Aidid's compound, on Radio Mogadishu's transmitters, or in an arms depot," Scott says.

LEARNING CURVE: Sometimes, as a foreign reporter, you cover subjects that you know next to nothing about. Phil Smucker says that his knowledge of cricket was less than zero when he arrived on the green in Peshawar. "I kept thinking about the Olympic commercials playing on CNN that promote sports as a means of creating brotherhood and unity across cultures," Phil says. "Problem is, most Americans are like me when it comes to cricket. They don't play."

He asked the captain of the Afghan national team if he'd be willing to teach the Americans - if they ever get to Kabul - to play cricket. The leader said that Americans should start by learning how to cheer, "Allahu Akbar!" (God is great!)

THE WAITING ROOM: Ilene Prusher, who moved from Jerusalem to Japan a little over a year ago, forgot that most people you see in the region - unlike in Japan - make you wait.

When she visited the Islamist lawyer for today's story, she soon remembered. Ilene arrived at 6 p.m. for her appointment. She waited. At 7 p.m., another American journalist arrived for his appointment. Two hours passed; no lawyer. After another hour, the lawyer's receptionist appeared to say he had been delayed and wouldn't be able to see anyone that evening. "Please call tomorrow," she said.

But Ilene says she didn't mind. While waiting, she got to see several of his clients and listen in on their issues. Some 20 people came, about half of them women. And it was a bit of a surprise. "They looked more like women from Saudi Arabia than Egypt," Ilene says. "Most had their faces - even eyes - covered, and wore black gloves."

- Faye Bowers

Deputy World editor

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