Reporters on the Job

Paying to Play : Zimbabwe has not been granting foreign correspondents visas to enter the country. But this week, staff writer Abraham McLaughlin - along with many of his colleagues - finally got journalists' visas to cover Thursday's parliamentary elections (page 1). But it came at a steep price. "They've charged us $700 each for election accreditation - the biggest visa fee I've ever paid in Africa," says Abe. But $700 will only buy so much time on the ground. All foreign journalists have to leave the country by April 5 - several days before the official election results are known. "That means we won't be around to really gauge the popular or governmental response to the election," he says.

Following the Quake: Staff writer Scott Baldauf had only just returned from Aceh to his home in New Delhi, India, when Monday's 8.7 quake struck off the coast of Indonesia (page 1). He had spent two weeks in Sumatra reporting on reconstruction efforts. "You get to know people, so this becomes not just professional but quite personal," says Scott.

His immediate concern was for Vida Asrina, his translator in Banda Aceh. "Her name means 'to live,' she proudly told me one day. When I reached her by phone Monday, her voice was shaky. 'It was a powerful quake,' she said. 'I just am hoping there isn't a tsunami.' "

Scott stayed in touch through the night by text messaging her on her cellphone. Initially there was panic over a possible tsunami, followed by relief, and a return to aid work. Her last text message before the Monitor went to press Tuesday: "I'm fine. We just went to Lhoknga and gave some books for the children in refugee camp. It's really interesting."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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