- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 1, 2002

Stretching a budget
With a budget for foreign news coverage that is only a fraction of that spent by our main competitors, we always look for ways to produce exclusive and significant stories without spending a lot of money.
That's why we were quick to agree when Washington area consultant James Zumwalt got in touch to say he was traveling to Cambodia and thought he could get us interviews with two leading opposition figures Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy.
We had worked once before with Mr. Zumwalt, a retired Marine veteran of the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, who during a previous visit to Cambodia interviewed Prime Minister Hun Sen on our behalf.
Mr. Zumwalt makes no pretense to be a journalist, but he provided us with a transcript of the Hun Sen interview on his return; we simply edited it down for length and published it verbatim.
Once again, Mr. Zumwalt e-mailed us transcripts on his return from talking to the two opposition leaders. But this time the interviews, while fascinating in places, dragged on too long with matters of limited interest.
So, with Mr. Zumwalt's permission, we asked reporter David Sands, to write an article of a little more than 1,000 words drawing on the most appealing elements of the interviews. We ran that on Friday's briefing page with some tightly edited highlights from the interview with Prince Ranariddh, the more interesting of the two.
We gave credit in the byline to both Mr. Zumwalt and Mr. Sands, with Mr. Zumwalt's name going first on the grounds that he was the one who collected the information.
But we could not use the Phnom Penh dateline. Most news organizations follow the rule that a dateline cannot be used unless the bylined reporter was personally in the place; while Mr. Zumwalt had been in the Cambodian capital, Mr. Sands had not.
That was resolved running the article with no dateline and having a separate note saying Mr. Zumwalt had conducted the interview in Phnom Penh.
Our photo department, meanwhile, came up with photos of Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy from our files, and our graphics department produced a map to complete the package.
The upshot was a full-page update on the political situation in Cambodia, based on exclusive interviews with two of the most important politicians in that country, for the cost of a single free-lance article.

Summit in South Africa
We are also relying on free-lancers for our coverage of the U.N. World Conference on Sustainable Development in South Africa, and in particular on the work of London-based correspondent Paul Martin.
Mr. Martin operates his own independent news agency, serving mainly European clients, which means he is frequently on the spot when major news events are happening. He has filed to us from Brussels, Germany and the Middle East as well as London, and we have built up a high level of confidence in his work.
Mr. Martin is also aggressive about going after exclusive angles that set his work apart from that of the wire agencies and the other newspapers. One of his first pieces from Johannesburg was based on a one-on-one interview with the head of the U.S. delegation to the conference, Assistant Secretary of State John Turner, who was surprisingly upbeat about the reaction to U.S. proposals for aid.
Mr. Martin called a couple of times on Thursday to say he had a very good interview with Andrew Natsios, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development. But he was having trouble with his e-mail, and by 5 p.m. there was still no sign of a story.
The wire services and another free-lancer had already filed on Mr. Natsios' press conference that day, where he talked about the threat of famine in southern Africa, and we were inclined to save our money by using an agency story.
It wasn't until almost 6 p.m. after the front-page selections had been made, that Mr. Martin managed to file the first several paragraphs of his story.
In it were exclusive and startling quotes in which an angry Mr. Natsios accused some of the world's best-known environmental groups of risking the lives of millions of Africans to make an ideological point about genetically modified foods.
We immediately alerted the managing editor, and the story ended up at the top of the front page Friday morning.

David W. Jones is the foreign editor of The Washington Times. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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