Reporters on the Job

CULTURE CRASH COURSE: The Monitor's Ilene Prusher, reporting today's story about a village that harvests seaweed for sushi (pages 12), still strains to understand why Japanese are so shocked at Westerners' appreciation of their cuisine.

During the interview with the Suzukis, Mrs. Suzuki quietly left the room and momentarily returned carrying servings of warm soba, thin noodles for dipping in a sweet soy sauce, topped with shredded nori (prepared seaweed).

"Mrs. Suzuki watched me closely as my translator, David Heafitz, and I downed the crispy green stuff that has been this village's lifeblood," Ilene says. " 'Oh!' she gushed with wonder. "Do you really like nori?' "

"She had no way of knowing that since I had my first taste of sushi six years ago, I've sought out nori-wrapped delicacies not just in major American cities, but on trips to the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia, often indulging at my own peril for a small sushi fix. And she certainly wouldn't know that I've already taken to eating nori straight, for a slightly salty and crunchy snack on deadline that's got to be healthier than a bag of potato chips."

As Ilene prepared to leave the Suzuki home around midnight, Mrs. Suzuki rushed out with a gift - five packages of nori to take back to Tokyo, "enough to last me several months," she says.

EASY ACCESS: When he interviewed an ethnic Albanian rebel commander in Macedonia, Jeff Bieley was struck by how much better organized the rebels were - and how open. Earlier this year, reaching rebels meant interviews arranged through word-of-mouth contacts, then a hike into remote mountains. This time, he says, all it took was a few cellphone calls and a 10-minute taxi ride from a large northern city.


BATTALION 745 - A BRUTAL EXIT: The Monitor's Cameron Barr received the prestigious Overseas Press Club award for the "best international reporting in a print medium dealing with human rights" for his series on an Indonesian battalion in East Timor (March 13, 14, 16, 17, 2000).

The judges described it as "an outstanding investigative series" in which Cameron "painstakingly exposes the devastating impact of the carnage" left behind by members of the army unit. In his acceptance speech, Cameron dedicated the award to Sander Thoenes, a Monitor contributor who witnesses said was killed by the battalion.

Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists, also awarded Cameron its top prize for investigative journalism (for newspapers with a circulation under 100,000) for the series.

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