Reporters on the Job

Talking to Children: Having seen street kids in action in Kinshasa – stoning cars and burning tires ... and at one point taunting him for being a "European," staff writer Scott Baldauf expected the children he interviewed for today's story to be tough.

"But one by one, as the children I met told me their stories of their parents' deaths, and of their extended families' inexplicable decision to accuse them of witchcraft, each of these tough street kids broke down into tears," he says.

Journalists are sometimes seen as emotional vultures, but Scott says that watching a child cry because of a question you've asked is not easy. "The only thing I could do was to talk to them like my own children; acknowledge that what they have gone through is terrible, but tell them they are brave and strong for having survived. The counselors at the center gave them hugs, and my translator turned my words into French, and soon afterward the children left red-eyed but smiling. But for days afterward, their stories stuck with me."

Walking on the Wall: Staff writer Peter Ford has visited China's Great Wall but found it rather crowded with tourists. Recently, some friends recommended a section about an hour northeast of Beijing. But when Peter and his family arrived, there was a sign in English stating: "Forbidden to climb wall natural great." And the wall was so broken down that it was unwalkable.

They went to another spot a few miles away. "We started up a path that cut through a farm. The farmer met us and refused to open the gate until we paid the equivalent of a $1.25 toll. I'm sure he makes a good living off tourists in the summer," notes Peter.

No one, not even Beijing officials, knows exactly how long the Great Wall is. "It stretches thousands of miles and it's hard to keep people off. There's no enforcement – except for these rather syntactically challenged notices every once in a while," he says. "The new rules are an attempt to come to grips with the problem."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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