Reporters on the Job

And For Our Next Guest: When the Monitor's Abe McLaughlin arrived at Jozi FM in Johannesburg, the hosts of the show "Cheaters" were panicking. All three possible cheaters were looking like no-shows.

The parking lot - where fans listen on loudspeakers and then pelt cheaters with bottles or trash as they exit - started to fill up. Several police cars were there to try to maintain calm. As the start of the show came and went, no cheaters had arrived. "I was sitting in the studio, listening to the host try to fill the dead airtime," Abe says. "Suddenly he turned to me and said, 'Will you go on?' "

Abe was reluctant. "But I figured I could use my South African radio debut to interview listeners. I asked questions, and they'd call in. One explained plainly the show's allure: 'Sometimes the truth hurts, but they serve up the truth, and that's why we like it.' "

Abe's appearance made him a bit of a celebrity. A day or two later, he called an AIDS group for comment on the impact of "Cheaters." "I explained to the receptionist what I was up to, and she said, 'Oh, yeah, I heard you on 'Cheaters' last week!' "

Exit Signs: Correspondent Nicholas Blanford made his way Monday to Dahr Al-Baidar, which sits on the uppermost part of the main highway between Beirut and Damascus and is the line to which Syrians are supposed to withdraw. "The atmosphere was edgy," Nick says. "Every time we slowed down around Syrian positions en route to Dahr Al-Baidar, troops would start storming toward us and tell us to keep moving."

Nick saw a machine gun on top of one of the small apartment blocks that soldiers have been living in - a gauge of the concern. "But I also saw laundry hanging out the window," he says - evidence, perhaps, that no one was in a huge hurry to move.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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