Reporters on the Job

It's All in the Accent: For Thursday's story on countries vying for a piece of US corporations' outsourcing pie (page 1), the Monitor's Abe McLaughlin talked to Ricardo Dyson. The call-center employee, who's based in South Africa, loves his job, Abe says - he's got money in his pocket and has spent recent weekends looking for a new house for his family.

"I interviewed him by phone, an appropriate medium given the story," Abe says. "He told me that he loves speaking telephonically - which is good, because outgoing calls, essentially telemarketing, are tough. People swear at him and hang up the phone.

"But incoming calls, he says, are quite pleasant. Because of his accent, callers often ask him where he's from. In general, it seems, British callers tend to be puzzled about the South African accent. Americans, however, figure they're talking to a Brit."

When Dyson reports that he's in South Africa, Abe says, callers' first response is often: "Oh, that's great. How's the weather there? Their second response: Wait, am I paying for this call?" Dyson often spends a long time explaining to customers that they're not paying international rates.

Face Time: When staff writer Ilene Prusher went to Bethlehem for Thursday's story (this page), one thing that stood out to her was how many pictures were posted of suicide bombers.

"Three years ago, I used to see pictures of Yasser Arafat and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, stenciled onto walls, but now the images are of young men whose faces you don't recognize. They're spray-painted mostly in black, though some are green or red, like a grim version of an Andy Warhol painting. It's hard to walk around without being constantly reminded of these guys."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

CULTURAL SNAPSHOT

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