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Reporters on the Job

February 28, 2003



CONTINGENCY PLANS: One thing correspondents spend a lot of time thinking about is communications, particularly in remote places. The Monitor's Cameron Barr, reporting from the Kurdish-controlled area of northern Iraq (page 8), now has two satellite phones (the second is a backup), two cellphones (the northern and southern regions operate on incompatible networks), and two hotel rooms (one in Arbil, one in Sulaymaniyah, because accommodations are scarce but inexpensive in the two main cities).

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In the event of a war, it could all be for naught. "I'm not sure what we'll do," Cameron says, if the cell networks and land lines go down and the satellite telephone systems are switched off by US forces. "Maybe I should find an abandoned telex machine."

PIE IN BAGHDAD: Working in the relatively developed city of Baghdad, the Monitor's Scott Peterson says that his work flow pie-chart is sliced differently than elsewhere. "Only a small sliver is spent on actual reporting and writing," he says.

A large wedge is reserved for keeping up to date with wider news from written sources and the TV, to keep on top of how UN, US, and European debates are resonating. An equally large wedge is spent on logistics: Everything from sorting satellite-phone antenna cables to boosting food supplies to working on ways to dampen the impact of any high-powered microwave bomb the US may use to cut off Iraqi communications. Scott figures the press center, in this regard, will almost certainly get zapped on Day 1 of any conflict, and be officially described as "collateral damage."

But the biggest slice of the pie? "Spending time at the press center talking to Iraqi officials, and lobbying for visa extensions," Scott says, "This can be the most time-consuming of all."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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