Wednesday, November 7, 2001

While American journalists soul-search over war coverage and journalistic ethics, a tempest has erupted among the ladies of the British press.
The BBC’s chief news correspondent Kate Adie recently accused her network of only hiring “cute women with cute bottoms and nothing in between,” a remark which sparked much offense, discussion and glee among those who chart the evolution of the British broadcast media.
Miss Adie, 56, described herself as “a terribly old-fashioned trout” against “the softening up in the news,” a trend she said includes pretty faces, sparse content and gossip mongering, all in the name of ratings.
Such candor earned Miss Adie a spot in the tabloids, which juxtaposed photos of her as a miniskirted young scribe in the 1970s with current shots of her reporting from Oman.
It did not help that Miss Adie is promoting her new book “From Corsets to Camouflage,” a chronicle of female war correspondents, or that she reported Prime Minister Tony Blair’s private schedule two weeks ago and compromised his security.
The Times of London has called it “the great bottom war,” noting “for the first time Adie seems human: Someone worried about growing old.” Telecasters should be comely, the Times stated, adding that Miss Adie who has reported from multiple battlefields and was once grazed by a bullet in Tiananmen Square is “sufficiently intelligent to know that female newscasters have always been chosen at least in part for their looks.”
The London Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, blamed the whole thing on professional jealousy, calling her comments “a diatribe against television news’ obsession with style over content.”
The BBC is changing its act, though, hiring an American talent coach earlier this year to teach female correspondents how to wear the “requisite haunted expression” when reporting from Afghanistan, the Telegraph said. The BBC denies that pretty faces and on-camera dramatics compromise news content.
“It isn’t dumbing down,” insisted news director Roger Mosey, “It’s using a variety of techniques to make things more accessible.”
“If you are young and pretty, you have less authority on television,” added Vim Ray, who recruits the talent. “It can swing both ways.”
Over at GMTV, another British broadcasting group, correspondent Lara Logan has a different problem. On Monday, she rumbled with Julian Manyon of rival network ITN after he suggested she used her looks to get an interview.
In a story filed from northern Afghanistan, Mr. Manyon suggested that his access to such Northern Alliance leaders as “General Babajan” has everything to do with “the considerable physical charms of my travelling companion, the delectable Lara Logan, who exploits her God-given advantages with a skill that Mata Hari might envy.”
The raven-haired Miss Logan had just filed a story about oppressed Afghan women and had her hut roof blown off after a B-52 bomb fell nearby. She was none too pleased.
“If General Babajan smiles around me, perhaps it is because I offer him respect and attempt, at least, to talk to him in a nondemanding manner an elementary part of making contacts and getting the story,” she told the Guardian newspaper.
A male reporter from Fox was also granted access, she pointed out, and wondered where Mr. Manyon got the time to write a lengthy magazine story rather than a daily dispatch.
“One can only hope that fellow Western colleagues would not fall back on hoary old chestnuts as an excuse to explain to their news desks why they are not getting access to a story,” she observed.

Contact Jennifer Harper at or 202/636-3085.

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