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Reporters on the Job

Different View: Staff writer Christa Case had heard Berlin's Neukölln neighborhood had some dicey areas, so when she and Monitor correspondent Andreas Tzortzis emerged from the subway station, she was surprised to see a clean, orderly street. Children chased each other in a playground while women in Islamic head scarves watched.

Inside one of the stately buildings nearby, Burhan Kesici, a local Muslim leader, suggested that Christa may not be the only one surprised. In the eight years he's worked for the Islamic Federation there, he's gotten far more visits from American professors than German ones.

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Christa was intrigued by his comments on the lack of coordination between Muslim groups. "So often, you hear people talk about 'the Muslim community,' as if it's monolithic," she says. "But coming to these neighborhoods, and peeking through a Muslim leader's window, you get a different view. You could just sense how far removed he felt from some other Muslims in Germany. That challenges the us-vs.-them description."

Tough Question: Correspondent Simon Montlake notes that some interviews pose unusual challenges. Take, for example, today's story about how the Thai economy is humming along despite no functioning parliament. "It can be a bit strange to ring up politicians and ask, 'Why do we need you?' says Simon. "You can get caught up in the political drama. But I found out that what keeps Thailand running are the many ordinary people who just do their job."

Simon notes that Thailand has long had continuous growth despite coups and countercoups. "Somewhere, bureaucrats figured out how to keep things going – roads get paved and schools get funded, regardless of the fury politically."

Despite the potential awkwardness of asking politicians to justify their existence, it can be kind of amusing, he says – and fortunately, they tend to have a sense of humor about the question.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor


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