Reporters on the Job

John McConnico/AP
Deep in the arctic permafrost of northern Norway, a seed vault opens Tuesday in a bid to protect the earth's plants from climate change, wars, and natural disasters.

Shaking Putin's Hand: Kirill Shchitov, a rising star in Russian President Vladimir Putin's party, was just the kind of person staff writer Christa Case Bryant had hoped to find for her three profiles on the Putin generation (see story).

"In the first interview, he calmly and coolly rebutted every Western criticism of Putin I could think of," says Christa .

And not only was he looking to build his political career on Mr. Putin's momentum; he was also set to meet the president himself on Feb. 21.

"Telling me about how he was looking forward to shaking Putin's hand, he awkwardly reached behind a tall bookcase on his office wall, and pulled out a plaque," recalls Christa. It recognized him as one of 50 honorees in a 2007 contest for youth projects sponsored by the president's office. " 'I know, it should be here,' he said, pointing to the largely undecorated walls. 'But I have no time to do it.' "

But it turns out that Putin had no time to meet the honorees after all, so Kirill had to settle for an official Kremlin representative.

Too Scared to Talk: It wasn't easy for correspondent Nicholas Benequista to get at today's story on aid workers in Ethiopia's Somali region. It took him six weeks to get government approval to travel to two urban centers. And talking to aid workers proved tough, too.

"One local aid worker initially agreed to share information, but insisted first on holding a phone conversation in which he playacted a refusal to cooperate," says Nick. "He told me it was, 'For the people tapping my phone.' "

But even after the ruse, he was still too scared to talk. Still Nick found Ethiopia's ethnic Somalis eager to confide in whoever will listen. "They are desperate to talk," he says.

David Clark Scott

World editor

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