Reporters on the Job

NOT BANKING ON WAHID: Reporters get clues to what "real people" think from all sorts of sources. Dan Murphy's landlady offered one straw in the wind for today's story. Dan's leaky-roofed but charming Dutch-era house in Jakarta is across the street from a home President Abdurrahman Wahid uses to hold daily meetings. Dan's landlady tells him a Wahid representative recently tried to buy her house, offering $400,000. The landlady turned down what looked like a great offer. "I don't think he's going to be president long enough to pay up," she explained. "What struck me about the comment," Dan says, "is the matter-of-fact way she assumed the money was going to come from corruption based on his position, and that since the president won't be in office long, he's a bad financial risk."

Text TRAVELS FAST: The mobile phone's become a vital tool for any reporter. But in the Philippines, says Simon Ingram, it's also a news medium of questionable reliability. As reported in the Monitor Dec. 1, 2000, sending text messages is an effective tool for quickly organizing political rallies. Supporters and opponents of President Gloria Arroyo have been working their cellphones with astonishing vigor lately. "We were having dinner last night, when one of my companions got a message that tanks were moving through the streets of Manila. A quick check proved that to be wrong," says Simon. Minutes later there was a message telling people to go to the presidential palace to defend it against invading supporters of ousted President Estrada. There are jokes making the cellphone rounds, too, mainly at the expense of the latest self-styled "people power" crowd - poor folks who critics say are drawn to pro-Estrada rallies by the food. One example: "People Power I [the 1986 revolt against Ferdinand Marcos] equals Free the Nation from a Dictator. People Power II [the January 2001 revolt vs. Estrada] equals Free the Nation from a Thief. People Power III equals Free breakfast, free lunch, free snacks. "

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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