Reporters on the Job

Reporting History's First Draft... Correspondent Simon Montlake went to Mindanao in the Philippines to see what was happening in the slow-moving peace process there (see story). A local journalist he worked with talked with him about the "pocket war" there – an isolated conflict that is not part of a bigger war. After reporting on the issue, he asked his colleague, who writes for a national newspaper, if he'd written a story on it, and he said yes. Then Simon asked if he reported it for a local radio show that he works with.

"He told me he didn't, noting that in the 1970s, there was a wave of Christian militias fighting Muslim groups," says Simon. "He thought a local report on this conflict would be inflammatory."

Simon says that his colleague's choices made him think about being a reporter who works in that community day to day, as opposed to someone who covers it from afar. "I don't have to see what happens the day after a report," Simon says. "My friend said that both sides would have to make statements in response, and conflict could escalate."

...And Writing the Later Drafts: For correspondent Nicole Itano, clashing views of history in the Balkans is not confined to the classroom (see story). The taxi driver she uses to get around Athens, for example, will order passengers to get out if they refer to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYRM) as simply "Macedonia." The reason: Greeks say that the kingdom of Alexander the Great, known as Macedonia, was part of present-day Greece. "Many Greeks are upset at what they see as an attempt by a Slavic country to appropriate his legacy for itself," Nicole says.

During a Greek broadcast of a soccer match between England and Macedonia, Nicole says, the station superimposed the letters FYRM (pronounced "feerim") to "correct" the scoreboard's rendering of the teams: ENG vs. MAC. "That's how touchy these issues are," she says.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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