Reporters on the Job

It's All in the Details: Like any good reporter, correspondent Ken Bensinger wants to make sure he sees what's going on for himself. And for today's story on Wal-Mart's footprint in Mexico (page 1), that meant going shopping.

"I went to where four big chains are located and went inside comparing prices and talking to shoppers," Ken says. "People who didn't shop at Wal-Mart would say, well, I think there are better products here, or the ambiance is better. At Wal-Mart, the price was the draw - even though now it doesn't always have the lowest price. But there's no question that Wal-Mart has won the perception war on that issue."

Ken noticed another thing as he wandered the well-stocked aisles. "I lost my sense of being in Mexico. If you walk into a Wal-Mart in Boise, or one in Pueblo, they look and feel almost identical. That goes for Wal-Mart's Mexican competitors as well. The general feel is either countryless or American."

No Parking: Nicholas Blanford has become accustomed to large rallies in Beirut over the past month. But Monday's was the largest yet - and its size hit close to home (this page). "My neighborhood is near Martyrs' Square. I had to go to other side of town, so I left early so as to get back before the rally started," he says. But he misjudged the time. "When I came back, I ran smack into a huge mass of people. I was a 30-second drive from my home, but I had to inch my way along." When Nick finally got to his street, he couldn't find a parking space. "I started to panic, as I had to get back to write. I finally persuaded a parking-lot attendant to let me squeeze into a space that really shouldn't have accommodated a car."

The attendant, it seems, was in the same genial mood as others. Indeed, Nick says, despite the rally's size, there was no hint of violence or ill temper, and troop presence was minimal.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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