Reporters on the Job

What notepad? Zimbabwe isn't letting foreign journalists in the country these days - and has closed down virtually every independent media organization inside the country. So the Monitor's Abraham McLaughlin, like other reporters, had to go in as a "tourist."

"I had actually been to Zimbabwe in 1991 - as a real tourist," Abe says. "It's a stunning country, with lush rolling hills, some of the best roads in Africa, and warm friendly people."

Abe didn't take his computer or business cards - only his camera and a few other tourist essentials. "I got so used to pretending I was a tourist that it was a bit unsettling when a white woman at Ian Kay's rally walked up to me and said, 'I hear we're touring the same sites.' She turned out to be a reporter too," Abe says.

Abe says the most frustrating thing about having to go in as a "tourist" was that he couldn't talk to ruling-party candidates or officials. "If I had, there was a big chance they'd expose me - and either jail or deport me. Once safely home, I did call one ruling-party official. But it's not the same as talking to them in person. Like other journalists, I have applied for official accreditation. I hope the government grants it - so I can go back closer to the election and get a fuller view of the other side of the story."

Ancien? Moi? Much of what staff writer Peter Ford read and heard as he reported the story on "gray marketing" rang a bell for him: about to turn 51 himself, he sympathized with complaints about advertisers who ignore older people, and identified with the sort of values that researchers have found among ageing baby-boomers. But nothing threw his advancing age into quite such stark relief as the tri-monthly invoice he received last week asking him to pay his health-insurance premium.

"The price had gone up markedly from last year, but it was not the cost that stung the most," Peter says. Rather, it was the name of his policy.

It used to be called "Cover Plus." Suddenly it has become "Cover Plus Ancienne Génération."

"That stung," says Peter. "I may be middle aged, but I certainly don't feel ancient."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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