Reporters on the Job

Made in China: Staff writer Robert Marquand visited Fujian Province twice to gather information for the two-part series on China's factory owners and workers that begins today (page 1). He picked this region because an estimated 65 percent of all foreign investment in China goes into the region from the Fujian coast south to Hong Kong. He got the interview with the factory owners by networking through his interpreter's contacts. But getting good interviews with workers for Part 2 (tomorrow) was more difficult.

"As a foreigner, I stuck out like a sore thumb. We could hear the word "Laowei" - often used as pejorative term for an outsider - echoing down the street head of us. A couple of times, I was mistaken for an investor. If I was in the street talking to someone, a crowd would gather and the person I was interviewing would clam up. We found ourselves ducking into restaurants and Internet cafes to do more candid - less public - interviews."

Gasline Runaround: While reporter Ashraf Khalil was reporting today's story about gas stations in Baghdad (page 7), US troops showed up on a routine patrol. "The day before, some of the employees were accused by Iraqi troops of hoarding kerosene for the black market," says Ashraf. When the US soldiers pulled in, they were sucked into the dispute. "The soldiers were flustered by my presence: 'Sir, I can't answer any questions.' I said, 'I'm not asking you anything; I'm talking to the Iraqis.'" While the soldier radioed superiors, Ashraf interviewed Iraqis. " 'Sorry, you have to leave,' they told me. I said, 'I need permission to talk to an Iraqi at a station that you're just passing by?'" The soldier became distracted and left Ashraf alone.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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