Reporters on the Job

• SECURE SHOPPING: To report today's story on Israel's small businesses in a time of crisis (this page), Ben Lynfield had to travel to a location many average Israelis regard as dangerous: a shopping mall.

For Ben, who has habitually avoided malls since the current series of suicide bombings began, the experience was liberating. "Friends have made fun of me for being willing to go into Jenin – but not a shopping mall," says Ben.

But once he got past the security guards and started into his cafe latte, Ben says the experience was quite pleasant. "I actually enjoyed it," he says. "The security was so tight that I felt safe in there, even though the shopkeepers didn't."

• SCOPING OUT A SUBJECT: Bob Marquand says that when doing a profile, especially of a figure like Frank Lu (page 1), it is important to seek what has shaped them. "You want to hear something genuine that cuts to their character," Bob says.

"The tale of Lu's first arrest struck me," Bob adds. "He was a young man in the Army in 1979, and spent an evening talking with a soldier just back from China's bloody Vietnam border campaign. Lu said the soldier told him about blowing up a bunker with Vietnamese civilians in it. Lu couldn't shake the story. He said, 'the soldier bragged about it, about how many died. He was proud of it. But I knew it was so wrong.' "

Later, Lu wrote about the case under an assumed name. A few weeks later, he was arrested. Lu was amazed at how carefully the Army had investigated him. Later, he was arrested as a student leader in Hunan during the Tiananmen Square period. With those bona fides, he at least seems to have lived his subject.

• SCOPING OUT A SUBJECT: The liveliest part of the current French presidential campaign – which has plumbed new depths of boredom for most voters – has been a nightly satire show on TV featuring latex puppets of the main candidates.

President Chirac's character, wearing a Superman-like outfit, is known as "Superliar" in a sharp reference to the corruption allegations swirling around him. The name has caught on and is now in general currency, but French voters are so used to corruption that it does not appear to be doing Mr. Chirac's chances much harm.

• DOING HIS PART Fred Weir says his family is doing its part to overcome the demographic crisis (this page). "Masha and I have had two children, and since I'm a Canadian, and must appear on a different ledger, that means a net increase to the Russian population of one," Fred says.

Faye Bowers
Deputy world editor

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