Reporters on the Job
• Christian Assistance: Foreign correspondents often employ "fixers," locals who not only interpret but find sources and help them navigate in unfamiliar territory. When Mariah Blake called around to various refugee agencies, she was told to get in touch with Nader Hellawi. The balding, middle-aged engineer now drives a bus in Sodertalje, Sweden. He fled Iraq in 2001. As other Iraqis fled the war, Nader met them on his bus and became their unofficial guide. And he was a gold mine of information for Mariah (see story).
"He picked me up at the train station and took me from house to house, to a gambling parlor, a club where Iraqi men hang out," she says. "He took me all over to find the right people. He spoke perfect English, too."
What did she pay him? "He wouldn't accept anything, not even dinner. Most Iraqis in Sweden are Assyrian Christians. He saw helping me – and them – as a Christian charity. He's a generous spirit."
• Better and Worse: When staff writer Howard LaFranchi visited Baghdad University recently, he was pleasantly surprised to see large numbers of students, male and female, sitting outside the university gates. "A year ago the entrances were off-limits for socializing; there were too many bombers and kidnappers," Howard says. "This scene was another example of improved security conditions in much of Baghdad."
But once inside the university walls the picture darkened. "Several professors said they can't go home at night and still are careful to vary their routes and schedules," Howard says. "When I went to call on one professor I'd first got to know in 2003, a department administrator said the professor in question had left the country after a brother was kidnapped and killed. When I inquired if there might be someone else in the department I could interview, she paused and said, 'Really I don't think so. You know, talking is dangerous.' "
– David Clark Scott