Reporters on the Job

Silent Auction: In popular malls, as any avid shopper knows, getting the attention of salespeople can require finely honed consumer skills. But on his first trip to China's new Golden Resources mall, the Monitor's Robert Marquand had no problem talking to salespeople or restaurant workers (page 1). In fact, Bob saw so few shoppers that he thought he had better return for a second look.

Early indications were that his initial reporting was sound. "We pulled right into a parking space - no problem there - and went in. And it wasn't crowded."

Bob says that what is now the largest mall in the world is a huge boxlike structure with a large central open space - like an atrium, but minus the green in this case. "For China, where space is extremely tight, it's unusual to have a place where you can walk endlessly, passing a yogurt shop here, a camera shop there," he says. "It's mind-boggling for Chinese."

And for a US reporter. "It can be a little exhausting to confront that much stuff. There's so much opportunity, it's hard to know where to begin," Bob says.

Talk to Me: John Thorne, who wrote today's story on efforts by British Muslims to promote moderation (this page), got varying reactions when he approached people for interviews. Some meetings were set up through contacts. But John also tried man-on-the-street questioning as well.

"It was hard to approach people, as the default setting toward the press is one of distrust," John says. "But when they realized I wasn't trying to write a sensational piece, they opened up. And in the meeting I attended, people who were initially suspicious became very friendly once the ice was broken."

Public figures were also cautious. "The moderate leadership is walking a very fine line: They can't defend radical Islam, but they can't apologize for it either. They also want to be seen as loyal to their community," says John.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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