Kate Adie of BBC: reporting on war & women at war

ADIE KATE ADIE 22 Kate Adie recently presented a talk at the National Press Club in Australia which was featured on ABC television where there was a riveting Q and A session as well. It is highly recommended viewing not least because ADIE is a formidable personality.

A summary here can do no justice to the spread of her talk. The contentions that have been imprinted on my mind are the following HOT SPOTS.

  • Today’s TV and news coverage is oriented towards the “live spot” and featured by “live instant journalism” organised by “whizzy technology.”
  • So it is “headline led.”
  • The coverage is controlled by the media barons, mostly men and men are, unlike the past, are personnel who have not  cut their teeth as young reporters.
  • In USA coverage of war is subject to informal governmental control and subject to the strict “accreditation” process exercised by their armed forces.
  • In all Western countries certain motifs are edited out because they are deemed unsuitable: for instance, captured enemy POWs and corpses.
  •  There is difference when reporters (and their d editors) are covering “our war” and “our troops” – as distinct for wars between two forces that are not in alliance with one’s own country.

KATE ADIE 11Some of these themes may be obvious to students of politics and war. However, Adie’s presentation was particularly significant because of her ethical stance and the current of secular fundamentalism which dominated her stance. She insisted that today’s public were guided by the right to know what was really happening on the war front. “Viewers have the right to know what is done in their name during war.” She said that “decent journalists” tried to “show what’s happening, warts and all.”

The issues arising will be re-visited in my subsequent writings, but  a few questioning NOTES arose in my mind:

(A)   As she herself stressed, didn’t the overarching emphasis on “the bite-sized chunk” in reportage distort understanding of highly complex situations which demanded in-depth coverage!

(B)   Wasn’t this shortcoming ALSO due to the character of a viewing public that had no patience, and even no capacity, to grasp a complex scenario that was quite alien to their experience?

(C)   How had “decent BBC reporters” presented the battle for Fallujah in late 2004?

(D)   How had such decent BBC reporters such as such as Roland Buerk ,[i] Chris Morris[ii] and Charles Haviland[iii] presented the last phase of Eelam War IV or, for that matter, the  conditions and the work done within the detention centres for IDPs at Manik Farm in 2009-11?

ABOUT KATE ADIE and  her BOOKS: Kate Adie is best known for her penetrating reporting from war zones and other danger spots around the world. Credited as the first British female television war correspondent, she has spent much of her career in close contact with the Royal Navy, RAF and Army and has always had a keen interest in military history. She currently presents the long-running From Our Own Correspondent programme on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service and serves as a trustee of the Imperial War Museum. Kate Adie is a winner of the Royal Television Society’s coveted ‘Reporter of the Year’ award. She is the author of three bestselling books.

  • Corsets To Camouflage. Women and War ….. by Kate Adie …. in assoc. with Imperial, and The Imperial War Museum … (2004, 9780340820605, 304 pp)
    • Into Danger …. (2009, ISBN 9780340933220, 320 pp)
    • .Fighting on the Home Front …… (2013, 9781444759679, 416 pp)

CORSETS & CAMOUFLAGECORSETS: Bestselling author and highly respected BBC news correspondent Kate Adie brings a century of dramatic change for women in uniform vividly to life in this newly reformatted paperback edition of her successful hardback.

Uniform is universally seen as both a stamp of authority and of official acceptance. But the sight of a woman in military uniform still provokes controversy. Although more women are now taking prominent roles in combat, the status implied by uniform is often regarded as contrary to the general perception of womanhood.

In association with the Imperial War Museum, this is the first book to look at the image of uniformed women, both in conflict and in civilian roles throughout the twentieth century. Kate Adie examines the extraordinary range of jobs that uniformed women have performed, from nursing to the armed services. Through contemporary correspondence and many personal stories she brings the enormous and often unsung achievements of women in uniform vividly to life, and looks at how far women have come in a century which, for them, began restricted in corsets and has ended on the battlefield in camouflage.

INTO DANGER: Ever since her days as a reporter on the front line in Iraq, Kate Adie has earned her reputation as one of the most intrepid women of her day. Throughout her career she has regularly reported from the world’s most dangerous war zones – often placing her own life at serious risk.

It has given her a curiosity about the people who are attracted to danger. Why when so many are fearful of anything beyond their daily routine, are others drawn towards situations, or professions which put them in regular peril of their lives?

It has proved a fascinating quest that has taken her to the four corners of the globe in pursuit of an answer. She has met those who choose a career in danger, like stuntpeople, landmine exploders, and even a ‘snake man’ who – aged 96 – has been bitten countless times by poisonous snakes to find venom for vaccines. She has questioned those whose actions put them in danger, like Sir Richard Leakey whose determination to speak out in Kenya nearly cost him his life, as well as criminals and prostitutes who risk all for money. And of course there are those who – through no choice of their own – have been put in danger, such as Saddam Hussein’s food taster – not his career of choice.

With Kate’s insight, wit, and gift for illumination, this is a compelling read.

Encomiums for Fighting on the home Front: Kate Adie provides a compelling account of how women’s lives changed during World War One — Irish Tatler

fighting on the home frontIf it is strong, successful, independent women you want, you can’t do much better than Kate Adie, who has tackled the place of women during the First World War in her excellent book Fighting on the Home Front. — The Big Issue

Some of the detail is delicious, like the women’s football … Throughout it all, Adie uses her journalistic eye for personal stories and natural compassion to create a book definitely worthy of her heroines. — The Big Issue

This fascinating, very readable book provides a complete wartime women’s history, but Adie also picks out faces among the anonymous ‘battalions of women who saw their duty as service to others’. — Discover Your History

This is history at its most celebratory . . . The book is chatty, personal and packed with plenty of anecdote — Telegraph

presents a well-researched history of how the role of women changed during the war. … Adie charts this effectively — Sunday Times


[i] Buerk was transported to the rear battlefront by the SL Air Force & Army on 7 November 2008.

[ii] Morris and Ganguly of t he BBC were transported to the rear battlefront by the SL Air Force & Army on 27 January2008

[iii] [iii]Haviland was transported to the rear battlefront by the SL Air Force & Army on 24 April 2009


Filed under accountability, Al Qaeda, american imperialism, atrocities, authoritarian regimes, British imperialism, cultural transmission, female empowerment, fundamentalism, historical interpretation, life stories, military strategy, nationalism, patriotism, politIcal discourse, self-reflexivity, slanted reportage, truth as casualty of war, unusual people

11 responses to “Kate Adie of BBC: reporting on war & women at war

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  11. I could not refrain from commenting. Very well written!

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