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Reporters on the Job

Reluctant Interviewees: Reporting today's story about former rebels in Liberia was more difficult than correspondent Lane Hartill had expected.

He found that most ex-combatants, who were teenagers, didn't want to admit to their warring past. "They were embarrassed by it. The other kids at school made fun of them," says Lane.

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Even when their friends and family members told Lane that specific boys were ex-fighters, "they lied to me and told me they had spent the war in a refugee camp in Sierra Leone."

Finally, the man Lane had hired to fix his computer provided a personal bridge to some ex-combatants. "He had lived in Monrovia during the war and knew several kids in his neighborhood had been fighters. He spoke to them, and then brought me to the alley where they hang out. At first, they were still hesitant to speak. But with my computer guy's encouragement, they opened up," says Lane.

Flexibility Wanted: Correspondent Andrew Downie doesn't doubt the soaring Brazilian sales figures for flex cars - vehicles that use any mix of gasoline and alcohol. But, as sometimes happens, he had trouble finding local anecdotal evidence to back up the national data. On the day he went out to find flex car drivers at a gasoline/ethanol station in Rio de Janeiro, he waited for two hours until someone pulled in with a flex car. "The gas station owner told me I'd picked the wrong time of day and week. But I later learned that the sales are stronger in Sao Paulo than in Rio," says Andrew.

What's Andrew driving? "An 1996 gasoline-only Volkswagen Golf. No disrespect, but you don't pay me enough to buy a new car, flex or otherwise."

David Clark Scott
World editor