The much-maligned taxi-driver is really the foreign correspondent’s best friend, writes Xan Smiley
The other day, when I was in Central Asia to write an article on how the five former Soviet republics in the region (‘the Stans’) were doing, I was reminded of the virtues of taxi-drivers as sources of information. When I started as a foreign correspondent about 45 years ago, I was told to beware of ‘the rubbish you pick up from taxi-drivers’. The most derisory crime, I recall, was actually to quote a taxi-driver in an article, albeit disguising his wisdom with some well-worn weasel phrase, such as ‘analysts say’. In fact taxi-drivers have always been the most useful sounding boards, informants and tipsters.
On my trip to Central Asia I saw people – as I invariably do – at the British and American embassies. I saw politicians of all stripes, a clutch of businessmen and bankers and academics and think-tankers and human-rights campaigners, in fact the usual array of people across the widest possible spectrum...
Full article in the November issue, on sale 12th October.