Reporters on the Job

• A CONSERVATIVE COUSIN: Peter Ford, our European correspondent, got a firsthand taste of Europe's political swing to the right (page 1) when he voted in his French wife's home village in the French presidential elections on April 21st.

At the vote count in the village hall that evening, one of his wife's cousins – an extreme right-wing activist well known in the region – was expressing delight at the results which foreshadowed the national success Jean-Marie Le Pen enjoyed. Without an immigrant in sight in the tiny wine-making village (pop. 550), nor any crime to speak of, Peter was baffled. His cousin-by-marriage explained: He and a lot of his neighbors, he said, were just sick and tired of the same old distant and corrupt political leaders on both the left and the right in Paris.

• NEGOTIATING ACCESS: The Monitor's Scott Peterson had planned to lead today's story (page 1) with a scene in which young Saudi charity workers were helping children at a school or in a hospital. The intent was to show how Saudi Arabia's "Generation-X" is looking for meaning in their lives.

But it wasn't to be. Despite the enthusiasm of some charity workers, the authorities ruled it out. "They understand exactly what you want to do and think it's a great idea," Scott was told by charity workers, after high-level inquiries were made. But in Saudi Arabia no men are allowed in the all-women hospitals and schools. And a photographer, male or female, would be "impossible."

"They told me that Saudi citizens and officials who saw the photo would question how a man got into such a place with a camera," Scott says, remembering the stir caused by an image of Saudi women doing aerobics that appeared in National Geographic several years ago. "They apologized to me, and said: 'We know we [Saudis] have a long way to go.' "

• IS THIS A BAD TIME? When reporter Ben Lynfield calls Palestinian sources in the West Bank now, he starts by asking, "I know you're under curfew. Is it OK to ask you a few questions?" Ben says that with the frequency of Israeli military operations in the region, he always wonders if he's calling at a bad time. "Today, I could hear the roar of tanks in the background," he says. It also means the quality of analysis suffers. One of the Palestinian sources in today's story (this page), Issam Nassar, works at the Institute of Jerusalem Studies. "He hasn't been able to get to his office in Jerusalem for four months. A phone interview wasn't as revealing or wide ranging as the one I did with him in his office about five months ago."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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