Reporters on the Job

• SENIOR POWER: While doing research for his story on Japan's aging population (page 7), Jonathan Watts was impressed by how healthy, fit, and active many Japanese seniors are. Their repertoire includes body building, synchronized swimming, hula dancing, and rock climbing. "I thought my grandparents were energetic when they would do even a short turn dancing at a family party," Jonathan says. "But many Japanese seniors do training every week," he says, adding, "There's a lot of energy among senior citizens here that is not being utilized by society as well as it could be." Jonathan, who is from Britain, says that in his nine years living in Japan, he hasn't picked up many of the elders' exercise routines – but he has begun sharing some of Japan's famed low-fat eating habits by having a serving of seaweed most days.

• WARY BUSINESS: Arie Farnam, who writes about a foiled attempt on a Czech journalist's life (this page), has had her own scary experiences as a reporter in central and eastern Europe. She has been detained on the border with Belarus and denied the right to contact anyone, thrown around by a crowd of angry nationalists in Macedonia, and has received a death threat from the mafia in Ukraine. But the obstacles she usually encounters are much more mundane. "Not only government bureaucrats, but also private businesses in this part of the world, often consider journalists a nuisance at best and never seem to see the possible benefits of being cited in a newspaper," Arie says. "For example, a few years ago I tried to do a story on the booming Czech recycling industry. I called every single recycling company I could find in the phone book and not one of them would talk to me," she recalls. "The people I talked to at the companies were always nervous. Finally one of them blurted out: 'We don't want you snooping in our financial records or uncovering some scandal. We know journalists only look for a sensation.' "

– Margaret Henry

Europe editor

Cultural snapshot

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