Reporters on the Job

CHASING ORTEGA: Reporter Catherine Elton dutifully faxed her interview request to Daniel Ortega's campaign office in Nicaragua. And she made phone calls pleading her case. She, like other journalists covering the elections, was told that Mr. Ortega was not doing any interviews until after the election. But she wasn't going to take "no interviews" at face value (page 1). Catherine spent a few days with Ortega's vice presidential candidate, going to his rallies. She thought she'd made a breakthrough when the VP introduced her to Ortega on an airport tarmac. "We shook hands. He was cordial, and then he turned away," she says.

But she didn't give up. "I dressed in nice clothes the next day, and went on the campaign trail with his entourage. I didn't eat all day. At the last stop of the day, in León, I pushed my way to the stage, and got close enough to get him to answer two questions before he was pulled away," she says. Not quite a full-fledged interview, but better than what most of her colleagues were getting.

NO WAY OUT? The tales of journalists stuck in northern Afghanistan continue to mount. The chilly weather and storm clouds encircling the nearby mountains have caused some anxiety among colleagues ready for a break, says the Monitor's Scott Peterson in Jabal Saraj (page 1). "It's been six days since the two Northern Alliance helicopters here left the helipad. The weather in the mountain passes or in Dushanbe, Tajikistan [the gateway for journalists in the region], has been bad," he says. Tired of waiting, one group paid the going rate of $1,600 per car to drive out. "A storm hit and the word is that they're stuck in a cave now," says Scott.

It's also rumored that the Associated Press has rented a helicopter for $45,000 and is offering seats on it for $4,000 each. "They've all been snapped up," says Scott. And the helicopter? "It hasn't arrived yet. May be the weather is keeping it on the ground in Dushanbe."

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