• Optimism Unearthed in Iraq: Story ideas in Baghdad, like battle plans, seldom survive the first round of reporting. Staff writer Scott Peterson went to a Baghdad hospital a couple of weeks ago to do a story about Iraqi casualties from Fallujah. He found no living casualties, but got wrapped up in a conversation with hospital administrators about how the health ministry was operating independently of US control. "Despite all the bad news coming from Iraq," Scott says, "the administrators had a sense of optimism and it was shared by those in the health ministry." That contrarian view was enough to persuade Scott to change his focus and pursue Wednesday's story.
• A Foreigner in Burma: Reporting in Burma is never simple, says Simon Montlake. Burmese citizens take a risk just talking to a foreigner, particularly a journalist. "A driver who assisted me in June 2003 investigating a bloody anti-democracy attack was later questioned for days by security forces before being released unharmed. So I'm always conscious of keeping a low profile and sourcing my stories with great care," he says.
But looking into the controversial restoration work on the Bagan temple site (page 7) proved somewhat easier, since tourists are plentiful in this part of Burma and asking questions isn't exclusive to reporters. "In fact, that's one good argument in favor of not boycotting repressive nations like Burma, since without tourists we journalists would stand out like ... well, bad copies of Buddhist temples," says Simon.
David Clark Scott