Reporters on the Job

CHRISTMAS IN CARACAS: The Monitor's Kris Axtman can empathize with Venezuelans who find their Christmas plans disrupted by the strike (page 8). She, too, had visions of sugar plums dancing in her head - until last week.

"It was going to be the first time my family came to see me in Houston at Christmas. Ordinarily, we gather at my parents' house in Los Angeles. But this year, I volunteered to host the holidays - Texas style. I bought a tree, decorated the house, and wrapped gifts," she says.

Then, came the bah-humbug call from editors in Boston. "Kris, there's a major breaking story in Venezuela. Can you get on a plane tomorrow?" With professional aplomb, she agreed without hesitation - or even mentioning her family plans.

"My mom, however, didn't see it in quite the same light," says Kris. "She quickly became one of President Hugo Chávez's most ardent opponents."

THE WOMAN BEHIND THE CANDIDATE: The Monitor's Danna Harman went to a press conference last week given by Kenyan presidential candidate Mwai Kibaki in the garden of his home (this page). "A lot of people showed up. Everyone was pushing to be in front of him, so I just walked around and stood behind him," says Danna. "It turned out I was in every shot on TV that night and in the morning papers the next day. The caption in the paper read: 'Candidate Kibaki flanked by his wife Lucy and others. That's me, 'others.' I looked as if I was not really listening (but I was, dear editor, I was).

When Danna showed up at his next press conference, Kibaki spotted her and waved her over. "He jokingly asked if I could stand behind him again 'because it's good to have nice young ladies in the shot.' Fortunately for me - and him, really - he has some new public-relations people working with him and they gently suggested he put his granddaughter Joyce in the background instead of yours truly."

- David Clark Scott

World editor

Cultural snapshot
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