• Interviewing Iraq's Veep: Correspondent Sam Dagher was told by colleagues that scoring an interview with Iraq's vice president, a Sunni, would not be easy. But two things apparently helped.
First, when reporter Jill Carroll was released in 2006 after 82 days in captivity, she was dropped off at the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party – Tariq al Hashemi's party. He was among the first to greet her. So, the party and the vice president were familiar with the Monitor. Second, Sam was persistent. He first asked for the interview in August, and kept asking.
If you query the average Iraqi Shiite about Mr. Hashemi, says Sam, "they'll tell you that he only cares about Sunnis." But Sam was struck by the thoughtfulness of Hashemi's arguments (see story). "He's quite articulate and persuasive. Obviously he advocates issues important to Sunnis and has criticized the Iraqi Constitution," says Sam. "But as we spoke, he had a copy of the Constitution on his desk, with key articles in the document highlighted in yellow marker. He kept referring to those articles and his 25-point compact for reconciling Iraqi factions. He says he wants the rule of law to be respected in Iraq."
• No Welcome Mat: Correspondent Fred Weir found it difficult to penetrate the atmosphere of suspicion toward reporters in the Russian town of Ryazan. As home to a military factory, it was closed to foreigners during the Soviet era. "It was like pulling teeth to get people to talk," says Fred. When he tried to attend a school where a pilot program requires Russian Orthodox church teaching (see story), he was refused. "We argued back and forth with the local school board," says Fred. "They finally told me I had to get security clearance from the FSB [the equivalent of the FBI.] The local FSB office laughed and said that an accredited journalist should be able to go to the school. It wasn't FSB business." But the school board still refused access.
– David Clark Scott