Reporters on the Job

SAFER TO BE AN AMERICAN: The Ivory Coast is one of the few places in the world where it's much safer advertising that you're an American than trying to pass yourself off as a Frenchman. At least that's been reporter Lane Hartill's experience during the past week of anti-French rioting in Abidjan, the economic capital. The protests prompted France to evacuate its citizens.

"The family I live with came rushing home from church last week and told me not to go outside, or I'd be killed. They were burning tires in the street. Teenagers were breaking into stores and looting. I didn't venture to far away from home for a few days." The protests continue, but the situation was calmer yesterday. Still, Lane is adopting some simple security measures.

"I used to start conversations in French. Now, I always say something like, 'Hello. How are you,' in a broad American accent with a smile. "I can see them relax. If they don't speak English, we just switch to French," says Lane.

But he says people still stare at him in the street and he can tell they're wondering, 'Is he French?' So, he carries his US passport, ready to flash, and always wears a Boston Red Sox cap. And Lane's walking-about wardrobe no longer includes those souvenir T-shirts he bought in Paris.

SUPERMARKET STALKER: A French survey shows a decline in cooking in the land of haute cuisine (page 1). But how does a journalist put some contextual meat on the data? In search of cuisine-challenged Frenchwomen for his article, the Monitor's Peter Ford spend the better part of an hour lurking around the precooked meals section of his local frozen food store.

But he was there on a weekday morning - just when all the women he wanted to interview were at work. Time for a change in strategy.

Peter went to check out the stands at his local market. But could he find a woman who would admit to culinary failure? Nulle part (nowhere). He couldn't even consult his French wife, a usually reliable source of local knowledge, because she is a marvelous cook.

"Fortunately, when I recounted my difficulties to the woman sitting next to me at a dinner party that evening, she readily admitted to being hopeless in the kitchen, and agreed to a public confession to our readers," says Peter."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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