Reporters on the Job

  • close
    Golden Sleep? Chinese policemen rest at a Guanghzhou railway station as the Golden Week or New Year’s holiday comes to an end. Millions of Chinese traveled back to work Tuesday.
    Joe Tan/Reuters
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption

Language of Respect: Staff writer Mark Sappenfield conducted his interviews with rising young politicians from famous Pakistani families in English. But occasionally he'd drop in a smattering of Urdu. "How are you? Is it OK to sit here?"

"It always brings a big smile," says Mark. "It's unexpected from a Westerner. And as with everything in Muslim countries I've visited, showing respect for heritage or culture immediately brings respect tenfold."

Mark says it helps that Urdu is a very formal language. "You speak regally, as if you're addressing a king or prince."

He takes Urdu lessons in New Delhi from a man who was born in Pakistan. "My teacher is an institution among journalists and diplomats. He knew Sir Edmund Hillary when he was New Zealand's ambassador to India. "

Sheikh Ali's Sayings: Correspondent Sam Dagher interviewed Sunni Sheikh Ali al-Hatem for a story about political tensions in Iraq. The sheikh, says Sam, does not hide the fact he's a high school dropout in a country where officials have been known to buy or fabricate university degrees. "He's proud of his street smarts which in a way endear him to average Iraqis who appreciate a straight-shooting and tough-talking public figure," says Sam.

He also has a penchant for colorful comments.

On the overabundance of Sunni sheikhs joining US-funded Sahwa (Awakening) movement, he says: "The population of sheikhs has overtaken that of flies."

On what he and his two brothers do for a living: 'What do you think? Sheikhs are supposed to sit back and let others work for them. We just eat and sleep."

On the tough character of his Anbari kinsmen: "A fellow chieftain visiting from southern Iraq asked my grandfather why our tribesmen were not kissing my grandfather's hand as they do in the south. He replied: 'You are a ram ruling over sheep while I am a ram trying to rule other rams.'

David Clark Scott

World editor

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.