Reporters on the Job

Go to Plan B: After a year of working in Washington, D.C., staff writer Danna Harman says it took a day of fruitless reporting in Khartoum, Sudan, to remember that in Africa a more informal approach is often more effective. "At first, I called all the proper government offices and agencies. I got nowhere," says Danna. "So, I planted myself in a major hotel lobby and visited a popular garden cafe by the Nile - and waited patiently for ministers, heads of aid organizations, and diplomats to walk by."

"I'd jump up and ask to interview them. If they didn't have time, I'd ask for their cellphone number and called later. Within two days, I'd spoken with most of the key players (page 1)."

But many didn't want to talk on the record. "Diplomats are angry with the Sudan government, but don't want to be quoted about it because they fear harming the very fragile negotiations. Aid workers, who usually are outspoken, are afraid of losing access to the camps if they are too critical of the government," she says.

Liberty or Soccer: Staff writer Scott Baldauf notes that Mahdi Army followers are generally quite focused on their mission: "Give them liberty or give them death," he says. But like most Iraqis, there's another powerful fixation: soccer. The Iraqi National Olympic team played Paraguay in the semi finals Tuesday, and nearly every Iraqi male was glued to the television.

"One of those who was watching the game was Abu Hassan - a Mahdi Army fighter who had just told me he had registered to become a suicide fighter (this page). I asked him if he was hoping to fire a volley of anee shams, or 'happy fire' into the air after the game. 'Yes, but it didn't work out,' he said. His smile chilled me a bit," says Scott.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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