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Reporters on the Job

THE LANGUAGE OF CONFLICT: The Monitor's Nicole Gaouette says three years of reporting in the Middle East have taught her this lesson: Don't take anything anyone says at face value. Watch their actions more than their words.

"No matter what gets put down on paper as an agreement at a summit, each side considers the words as still open to interpretation and negotiation," she observes.

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Wednesday's story about the language used in the Israeli and Palestinian conflict was prompted by the pummeling that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took a couple of weeks ago when he first used the word "occupation" to describe what the Israeli army was doing in the Palestinian territories.

Nicole understands how he may have felt. "As a journalist covering this, I get constant flak from readers on both sides of the conflict for the words used in my stories. It's very difficult to write about this place without stepping on a semantic land mine," she says.

MIDDLE SHELF, ON THE RIGHT: Researching Wednesday's story about militant Muslim propaganda in Indonesia was a relatively easy task, says reporter Dan Murphy. While some DVDs were sold out, he didn't have any trouble finding audio- and video tapes and books in Jakarta and the cities of central Java.

"It's there among the other materials in Muslim bookstores or sold by vendors in the streets. You can find tapes of famous clerics preaching mixed in with videos about the 'Chechen jihad' or the Bosnia conflict or Osama bin Laden's speeches. They're all staples. In the same store you can find books on how to teach the Koran to an 8-year-old."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot