Reporters on the Job

How to Gauge a Conflict: After the past five years, staff writer Scott Baldauf has come up with a few gauges for how secure things are in Srinagar. "One is how many bunkers I see on the street. Another is how many Indian tourists I see," he says. But the best gauge, he says, is the guestbook at the houseboat where he stays, owned by Gulam Butt. "The guestbook goes back more than 50 years, and there is a kind of thrill knowing that George Harrison and Ravi Shankar and former Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith have spent a few nights on these elaborately carved and appointed boats on Dal Lake," he says. "But whenever there is a spate of violence, the clientele shifts dramatically from tourists from Delhi and Dallas and Djibouti to reporters from Associated Press, The New York Times, and, yes, The Christian Science Monitor. The shift seems to have taken place, yet again, in May, following a string of grenade attacks. For the two weeks before my visit, the houseboats were empty. 'A few months ago, you couldn't have found a room at any of the hotels,' Mr. Butt told me. 'People started building new guesthouses, and fixing up their old properties. Now people are wondering how they can pay their loans back.' "

Always Ask for Directions: Staff writer Sara Miller Llana had heard that Francisco Toledo, considered by many to be Mexico's most famous living artist, was mediating between strikers and the state government, but she didn't know how to find him.

In a big city, the usual approach is to work the phones. But Sara decided that Oaxaca was small enough that it might be more fruitful to just knock on people's doors.

"I got in a cab and asked the driver if he knew where Toledo lived. He radioed in the request, and got a million responses. I got dropped off, and found my way, after several false leads, to his cultural institute. I went back about five times but without results.

"The next day, I was walking with a professor, and mentioned to her that I needed help in reaching him. I wondered if she had any suggestions. She paused – and pointed across the street. There he was. I went up to him and we made plans to meet later that afternoon."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

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