Reporters on the Job
THE RUNAROUND: In a story about Nigerian democracy (this page), an interview with President Olusegun Obasanjo would be a natural goal for any reporter. But the Monitor's Danna Harman was defeated by Nigeria's bureaucracy.
"I put in a written request for the interview weeks before arriving. The Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C., assured us that all I would need to do was to talk to the press secretary once I was in Nigeria."
But the gap between theory and practice soon widened. First, Danna was stymied by the phones. "It takes dozens, if not hundreds, of attempts before you can get anything but a 'system busy' signal." The second barrier was the phalanx of assistants around each top official. "They insisted that the boss was out of town until next month. Yet I could see the same people talking live on TV or driving past me in their motorcades."
After a long week of efforts, Danna left the capital, but finally got the press secretary on the line. "I was so surprised it took me a moment to register. The first thing he asked was why I had not been in touch earlier. Then he suggested I send a fax making a formal request for an interview. And, he said, I would need to follow up by phone." At that point, Danna conceded that the bureaucrats had won this round.
GOOOOOOOOOOAL! Stories have a habit of jumping out when you least expect them. So it was with today's story about Islam and Turkey's soccer team (page 7). Reporter Nicholas Birch went to the offices of Hurriyet, a local newspaper, to interview a senior executive about Turkish-Armenian relations. "But it was the day of the World Cup qualifying match against China, and there would be no interview before the final whistle. So I watched the match with the foreign editors. It was one of them who told me about the soccer controversy. I'm glad he did the Armenian interview turned out to be a dud."
David Clark Scott