Reporters on the job

• INTERVIEWER OR INTERROGATOR? Prisons are designed to keep people from leaving, but for today's story about prisoners in Afghanistan (page 1), the Monitor's Ilene Prusher had a hard time getting in. "Each time we arrived, they said we weren't allowed to visit today - come back tomorrow, in three days, next week, and so on."

With her usual persistence, Ilene was eventually allowed in. "The cold and the smell were hard to take. And the interview conditions were far from ideal. They wanted me to to interview the prisoners as a group in a cell or in places where they were being interrogated. But neither felt right. It's hard to get honest information and feelings with anyone when they're surrounded by eight other guys. I'm no Al Qaeda sympathizer. Some of them said they came to fight Russians and Americans. But sitting in the interrogation room next to the government interrogators, and facing a barefoot prisoner, hardly seemed the ideal setting for getting someone to talk openly either."

Ilene asked to interview a prisoner in a separate room, and her request was granted. "This is one of the things I often find to be pleasantly surprising when I'm working. If you know that the setting for an interview just isn't right, and you ask for a better place to sit down and talk, people will often comply."

• CANADIAN HOLIDAY BLUES: Reporter Fred Langan says many Canadians, himself included, are altering their vacation habits due to the weak Canadian dollar (page 7). "Every year, I spend a week in Florida visiting friends," he says. But this year, he isn't looking forward to the trip quite as much. "I dread the visit to the bank to change my Canadian dollars to US." This year, instead of living it up in Florida, he will have to live it down. "I'll try to avoid going out to dinner."

- David Clark Scott

World editor

Cultural snapshot
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