Reporters on the Job

That Military Training: Staff writer Peter Ford's attention was drawn to Sarcelles, France (see story), by an article in the Israeli daily 'Ma'ariv,' which suggested that the Jewish Agency was about to launch a military-style, code-named operation to persuade Jews who live there to move to Israel. But five attempts to speak to the Jewish Agency in Paris about this failed: The man in charge of emigration there refused to call Peter back.

Eventually, Peter rang the Israeli Embassy's press attaché, asking for his help in persuading the agency official to talk. He was told that before taking his present job, the agency man had been the Israel Defense Forces' top spokesman. "This was clearly a man accustomed to not answering awkward questions," says Peter. "So I rang the head office in Jerusalem instead and got all the answers I was looking for."

What News? The Monitor's Robert Marquand sent his assistant out to query Beijing residents about their thoughts on the six-party talks that start Wednesday (see story). "We were trying to gauge the level of on-the-street interest," Bob says. "My suspicion was that there wouldn't be a lot of attention to it. People can tell when something's important, as official papers will play it up. But Beijing is playing this story quietly."

Bob's hunch was right. "People said things like, 'this doesn't affect our lives, our opinion doesn't matter on a question like this,' " Bob says. "There was a massive disinterest among the vox pop."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot

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