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Reporters on the Job

Oh, for Some Ruby Slippers: Trying to get an interview with government officials in Venezuela is no easy task, says staff writer Danna Harman. "You call, you send in requests by fax and e-mail - and then you wait around," she says.

Tuesday, it seemed Danna's interview with the oil minister was coming through. "I was told to be at the office at 1:30 sharp. Afraid of getting stuck in traffic, I ended up getting there a half-hour early," Danna says. Three-and-a-half hours later, I had met several advisers, spokespeople, and protocol folks, but was still waiting outside his office."

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An adviser finally emerged and told Danna that the minister had been suddenly called to the president and could not meet. "The interpreter who works with the minister and who had been waiting with me, said this happens all the time. He told me he was once at the theater with his wife and got a call to come immediately for an interview - but then ended up waiting four hours for nothing. His wife tells him only her great love for President Hugo Chávez allows her to bear it."

The Soccer Gap: The uncomfortable liaison between an American billionaire and a British soccer club prompted reporter Mark Rice-Oxley to ask questions about the gulf between two sporting cultures. "Brits tire of the commercial breaks and stop-start nature of US sports," he says. "Americans seem to struggle with low-scoring matches and the possibility of anything ending in a tie. One Manchester United fan told me: 'Until Americans learn to love a game that can end 1-0 and not 86-74, there will always be a big gulf between us.' "

"But," Mark says, "as the Glazer-Manchester United episode shows, both sporting cultures are now in thrall to commerce. Sport is big business here, too, and success is only a few noughts on a checkbook away. That, for me, removes some of the joyous unpredictability of it all."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor