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The convenient ambiguity of 'tone' : style and the politics of witnessing in Kate Adie’s reporting of the Dunblane tragedy

Smith, Angela and Higgins, Michael (2012) The convenient ambiguity of 'tone' : style and the politics of witnessing in Kate Adie’s reporting of the Dunblane tragedy. Journalism, 13 (8). pp. 1083-1097. ISSN 1464-8849

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Abstract

Kate Adie’s coverage of the 1996 murder of 16 schoolchildren and their teacher in the Scottish town of Dunblane occasioned much critical discussion. Using material from the newly constituted Kate Adie Collection at the University of Sunderland Library, this article looks at aspects of the ‘tone’ and content in Adie’s reports, and reflects upon the ways in which style and practice can position the reporter relative to the affected community. The article highlights the importance of Adie’s established practices and public renown as a high-profile war reporter for the BBC, as well as the socio-political environment of the reports which includes a political resurgence of Scottish nationalism with an associated identity politics. Through critical analysis, the article sets Adie’s reports within a tradition of media ‘bearing witness’ to tragedy, while suggesting that they offer an insight into potential breaches in the assessment of the emotional performativity of witnessing.