Reporters on the Job

Voice Message: In researching her story today on a Saudi offer of amnesty to militants (page 1), correspondent Faiza Saleh Ambah connected for the first time with the voices of the militants. Several militants, including Saud al-Otaibi, posted recordings on their website over the past two weeks, and hearing their words, says Faiza, gave her new insights into the men's motives.

"They came alive as dangerous and violent but also as misguided and passionate young men," she says. "Despite their crimes, and the danger they pose to my life and the lives of my children, hearing them talk about their grandiose yet ancient vision for Saudi Arabia, and their commitment to their cause, their willingness to die rather than live behind bars, they became human. In their own way, they also became victims: of their rage, their lack of education, their religious leaders, their society, their interpretation of religion, their desire for a different life, and their impotence."

High-tech Memorial: After the 3/11 terrorist attack on Atocha Station in Madrid, a spontaneous memorial of flowers, notes, pictures, and photos sprang up. That is gone now - replaced by two "video walls" that include images of the former tributes and of the attack.

Correspondent Geoff Pingree says that he has respect for the interactive display on which people can leave electronic messages. But to him, it's a different experience from viewing the homemade tributes. "This new tribute is very clean and technical. I was told that the old mass of tributes was hard for workers to look at every day - and that it was messy. But the very human element is gone to me, even though people are clearly interested in writing something at the terminals."

Geoff says the engagement with passersby is different: "It seems as if the handmade material had more emotional impact - and as if people experienced more of a private moment than with the electronic tributes.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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