Reporters on the Job
• Easy Access: Foreign journalists say that it's not hard to get hold of politicians in Israel - the real problem is to get them to stop talking, says correspondent Ben Lynfield (page 7). "The first part of that was true in doing this story," Ben says. "I was able to reach Interior Minister Avraham Poraz without intermediaries or appointments simply by calling a mobile phone. When I asked to speak to the minister, Mr. Poraz said, 'You're speaking to him,' and in response to my query, proceeded to outline his ill-fated daylight-saving plan. It had just been crushed in the cabinet and he seemed happy to share his frustration."
Ben says Poraz's accessibility is not exceptional. Two Knesset members interviewed for this story also answered their phones themselves. The accessibility has to do with Israel's informality (Jerusalem's longest-serving mayor, Teddy Kollek, used to list his home number in the phone directory) and small size and its energetic and competitive media. Politicians who are not accessible simply will not get their point across.
• Just Get Them Going: In reporting today's story on China's factory workers (page 1) Monitor staff writer Robert Marquand found it challenging to get workers near the factories to open up. "In Dong Guan, there's a lot of observation going on in the wake of unrest in the Stella factory," Bob says, "and people were wary. I was the only foreigner around - and people would look away."
Eventually, people began to talk. At the Stella factory, a riot had occurred over worker conditions - like pay and food. "Food is really important to the Chinese," Bob says, "and they know when it's not good. Meals were ample but tasted bad, and this picky crowd shared their unhappiness over that."
Bob also joined an animated discussion when he stopped late in the evening outside a store below a workers' dorm in Shenzen, a booming factory town. "We all sat around talking and watching a martial arts drama on a tiny TV. The workers, who live a pretty rugged existence, wanted to know about the US, the election, and all sorts of things," Bob says. "They even ran upstairs and got their children. One little girl had never seen a beard before, and couldn't stop touching my face."
The night ended in a distinctly Chinese style. "We ended up at a ping-pong club where they give you a bushel of orange balls - and cups of hot tea - and you just have at it." Bob did his best - but says that the good players watched his high school-level game and simply smiled indulgently.
Deputy World editor