Reporters on the Job

THE SILENT TREATMENT: Reporter Jon Watts, who has spent the past week in North Korea (page 1), says the main reason a BBC reporter and he were allowed into the country is that Britain opened an embassy in Pyongyang last year to further engage with the reclusive nation.

"Part of that effort is to bring British journalists to North Korea," notes Jon, who is a staff writer for the UK newspaper, The Guardian. But that doesn't mean the work has been easy. "Since we got here, it's been very hard work because it's such a tense situation. The few foreigners who live here are totally segregated. It's been almost impossible to speak to people. I had four failed attempts at man-on-the-street interviews."

That may have been the handiwork of two guards assigned to escort Jon. "I can hardly leave their sight," he says. "Most of our phone conversations are being listened to. That's because they think they are at war, or very close to war."

Before arriving, Jon applied for access to the orphanages and villages suffering most from starvation. He didn't get it. "It would be in North Korea's interest to show us these places. But they are incredibly proud. They'd rather show you museums, and things of past glory."

I'LL CALL YOU: "These Thurayas are better than I thought," says the Monitor's Cameron Barr, who filed his story today on an Iraqi Shiite leader in Tehran using his new satellite phone (page 7). He finished the story in a taxi moving at about 70 m.p.h. along the highway from the city of Qom, south of Tehran, to the capital.

Steeped in the old technology, Cameron asked the driver to pull over so that he could send the story. But once the story was on its way and the taxi began moving again, Cameron noticed that the phone was able to maintain the connection - even at 70 m.p.h. "That's not all," adds Cameron. "The editors in Boston can't seem to dial the Thurayas. So it's the ultimate reporter's phone: You can reach them, but they can't call you."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

Cultural snapshot
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