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Not one of U.S. : Kate Adie's report of the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli and its critical aftermath

Higgins, Michael and Smith, Angela (2011) Not one of U.S. : Kate Adie's report of the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli and its critical aftermath. Journalism Studies, 12 (3). 344 - 358. ISSN 1461-670X

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Abstract

Although the professional activities of the war correspondent have commanded critical attention for much of the last century, discussion has intensified in recent years. This article seeks to place some of these debates within a longer-term perspective, by examining a broadcast by the BBC journalist Kate Adie, reporting on the US bombing of Tripoli in 1986: a broadcast that attracted widespread media and political hostility at the time, as well as prompting the governing Conservative Party to commission a report on perceived bias in BBC news reports. Using Adie's previously unavailable reporters' notebooks, as well as other contemporary material, the article examines the processes of drafting involved in the broadcast, including the discarded elements. The article outlines evidence of the configuration of human interest-driven news values for an environment of civilian injury and destruction, drawing upon a tradition of the war correspondent as “witness”. The article suggests that accusations of a lack of objectivity on Adie's part failed to account for the role of a particular set of interpretive conventions in reporting the bombing's aftermath, and such broadcasts may be more productively assessed within discussions of “contextual objectivity” in war reporting.