Reporters on the job

TWO FOR ONE DAY: What does it take to file two stories in one day? A little help from friends, and precision timing. Most mornings in northern Afghanistan are quiet, so correspondent Scott Peterson wrote about US psychological operations and sent the story after lunch (page 7).

Scott guessed there might be another story in the US bombings, and that the US military would hit Taliban front lines late in the afternoon. He packed up his satellite phone, computer, and extra batteries and headed for the Bagram front. The US bombing occurred earlier than expected. Scott buttonholed a Northern Alliance commander, then called Boston to say that he was starting to write. But his ride - shared with other journalists - was moving a closer to the front line to see. "soldiers waiting out the bombing of their enemy, by playing volleyball!" he says.

Scott's deadline was approaching, but his TV colleagues needed to get back. Lit only by the light of the computer screen, Scott churned out the story during a 45-minute drive on a rocky road, in the dark, with a colleague holding the screen to keep it from separating it from the computer. Two minutes after pulling into his home base, the sat phone was hooked up, and the story was beamed to Boston.

UNDERCOVER REPORTER: Foreign journalists are banned from Afghanistan. So reporter Phil Smucker says today's story about life behind Taliban lines (page 1) couldn't have been written without help from an Afghan reporter. A couple of weeks ago, Phil was in a Pakistani Pashtun tribal area, normally off limits to foreigners, and had been told by his taxi driver to remain inside a walled compound while he rounded up some "informed sources." "He brought me a refugee fluent in Arabic, English, Pashtun, and Urdu. Better yet, the guy had been a reporter at the Kabul Times until the Taliban made it to town in 1996. I pay him to travel back and forth into Afghanistan. I just hope the CIA doesn't recruit him away from me."

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