Reporters on the Job

Nostalgia for 1976: As Mark Rice-Oxely was reporting Wednesday's story about 1976 as a peak year for British quality of life (page 1), he couldn't help but associate it with his own memories, and the different generational perceptions of the times.

"If you ask anyone of my parent's generation about the mid-70s, they'd remember drought, but we'd remember hot weather. They'd say, 'power cuts,' we'd say, 'exciting, candlelit evenings playing board games.' They'd say, 'inflation,' we'd say, 'Great, more pocket money.'"

Mark says it was for him personally a peak year. "It was a great year for music (Chicago, Abba, Elton John), hot summer weather, and a string of girlfriends." But he adds, "I was only seven-years old at the time."

Playground Politics: Sometimes the best nuggets get left in a reporter's notebook because he runs out of space or can't find a way to work them into the logical flow of the story. A political scientist with whom staff writer Peter Ford spoke told him an anecdote illustrating the different degrees of reliance on the authorities between Americans and the French - a central theme of economic reform (page 1).

Sociological researchers told American and French children the same start to a story: "a group of children invade your neighborhood playground and stop you from using it." How does the story end? The American kids generally came up with a plot about how they organized themselves to defend their territory. The prevalent French response was "complain to the playground manager, and if he's not there, ask the mayor to help." And if the mayor wasn't there? the researcher asked. "Get the president to deal with it."

Vive la difference.

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot
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