Reporters on the Job

ALWAYS CARRY A CAMERA : Nicholas Blanford faced serious security when he arrived for his interview with Hizbullah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah in the southern suburbs of Beirut. "They have a compound sealed off by steel gates and guarded by fighters in black holding AK-47s," says Nick. "I went through security much as you would at an airport - even taking off my shoes and watch. They gave me a numbered button so I could reclaim my belongings later."

Nick was told he would have 45 minutes for the interview. At the end, though, he asked if he could take some pictures, and spent another 20 minutes snapping away. "They were amused when they realized I had figured out a way to get a bit more time for asking questions."

PELAGIC PADDLING : A constantly changing flow of story assignments can demand of correspondents a certain, well, flexibility. For today's story the Monitor's Peter Ford, whose reporting has recently spanned Baghdad and the Tour de France, found himself engrossed in rubber ducks adrift in the Atlantic, and their import to oceanographers.

"It was amusing talking to very solemn scientists about a rather bizarre phenomenon," Peter says. "They take it seriously - so much so that it was an effort to break them out of using words I had never even heard of before."

Tracking down the top duck expert was a bit of a challenge as well. Curt Ebbesmeyer, the point man for the rubber ducks, lives in Seattle - several time zones from Paris. "When I called his home, I was told that he would only talk to me the following day - when I was going on vacation. I pleaded that I had gotten up at 5 a.m. just to phone him - and he took pity on the need for urgency in discussing the plastic critters."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot
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