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Reporters on the Job

May 19, 2003



GETTING BOTH SIDES: Reporting the story of Mohammed Tahar's death (page 1) was typical of reporting any story from Iraq these days, says Peter Ford. Finding the Iraqi side is relatively easy: getting the American side is like pulling teeth.

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"I first came across Tahar when he was brought into the hospital where I was reporting Wednesday night," says Peter. "I came across his funeral Friday morning, when I went to his neighborhood to check on reports Americans had shot him."

"But finding the US Rangers who killed him meant being turned away from their base by a soldier who refused to recognize my Jordanian-issued press pass for Iraq (the first person to do so in five weeks here), hanging about outside brigade headquarters in the broiling sun for 45 minutes, sitting in a waiting room for 30 minutes while someone looked unsuccessfully for a press officer, and then nearly being thrown out again by an officious sergeant major while I waited for the Ranger I was seeking to return from a patrol." The US battalion commander told Peter he had lots of good-news stories to tell, and wondered why he wasn't seeing any journalists. Peter suggested that it was probably because they were not being allowed through the gate.

LIKE MEETING A ROCK STAR: Reporter Sarah Wildman met with Tariq Ramadan on three separate occasions for Monday's story about Muslim leaders in Europe (page 7). When she mentioned this to some of his young female followers, they couldn't believe it. "It was like telling an American teen that I'd had lunch with Bruce Springsteen." But Sarah nearly blew the interview with them when she said that he was "incredibly warm" and "flirtatious."

"They were very offended that I would characterized a spiritual leader that way. I meant to say that he was extremely engaging," she says.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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