Reporters on the Job

ARDUOUS DUTY: Journalists often spend a lot of time with experts, diplomats, and government officials. For today's story on the sudden popularity of crayfish in China (page 1), the Monitor's Robert Marquand enjoyed not only the cuisine, but the encounters with all strata of Chinese citizens. "This one meter maid had waited near our car to make sure we paid our parking fee (20 cents for four hours). She didn't want the 'foreigners' to get away without paying. But after the interpreter and I talked with her about her family, her job - and her favorite dragon shrimp recipe - she insisted that we leave without paying. She wanted to give us a gift."

On another occasion, Bob invited two Chinese over to his table. "One got up and left after hearing I was from the US. He said: 'I hate Americans!' But he came back later, and apologized, after he heard I was a reporter," says Bob.

USING THE 'T' Word: Our Middle East reporters have to tip toe through the minefield of terrorism, and writing about it, every day (page 1). Sometimes car bombs interrupt the grocery shopping. At other times, sources feel strongly about the use of the word. Correspondent Cameron Barr once made the mistake of using what he calls the "t-word" in an interview with a Palestinian minister. A half-hour lecture ensued. Correspondent Nicole Gaouette once refused an Israeli source's demand that she label all Palestinian violence as "terrorism." The source abruptly hung up the telephone.

NO OPINIONS HERE: One of the trickiest feats of reporting is covering a group that doesn't want anything to do with you. It is even worse, when your interpreter is in league with the subjects. Such is the case, says reporter Arie Farnam, with the Franciscan order of the Catholic Church in western Bosnia and the church-licensed guides of Medjugorje.

"As I worked my way toward the village that has become the heart of Croatian separatist power in Bosnia, I asked people what they thought of the place and its myths. Again and again, lively conversations were brought to a screeching halt by my questions. When I reached the town, I told my church-provided interpreter that I wanted to talk to locals. She insisted: 'People here only pray.' My minder carefully selected my interviews and edited the translations, which was obvious even to my sparse understanding of Croatian. Finally, I picked out some English-speaking locals in a cafe, who immediately told me that the separatist Croatian party, HDZ, controls everything in the town. At that point, the church minder agreed that she, too, would rather break with Bosnia and join Croatia."

- David Clark Scott

World editor

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