Kate Adie OBE

Kate Adie

Areas of Interest

Literature, Media

Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of the University, 1999


Kate Adie, author and broadcaster, became a familiar figure to viewers through her work as the BBC's Chief News Correspondent. She is considered to be among the very finest reporters, as well as one of the first British women, sending despatches from danger zones around the world. She is also familiar as the presenter of Radio 4's From Our Own Correspondent and a guest on many other radio and television programmes.

Kate has been named 'Reporter of the Year' twice by the Royal Television Society; the first occasion was for her coverage of the SAS end to the Iranian Embassy siege in 1973. She also won the Monte Carlo International Golden Nymph Award in 1981 and 1990, and was awarded an OBE in 1993.

Kate grew up in Sunderland and gained her BA from Newcastle University where she read Swedish. She was a member of the National Youth Theatre and still attends the theatre and visits galleries when time permits. She is an avid reader of both fiction and history, and has served as a judge for literary prizes, including the Orange Prize for Fiction, the old Whitbread and the Costa. Kate has also served as a trustee of the Imperial War Museum, and her illustrated, companion history to the museum's exhibition about women in uniform, Corsets to Camouflage, was published by Hodder & Stoughton to coincide with its opening in the autumn of 2003.

Her first book, The Kindness of Strangers, an account of her work as a reporter and how she came to undertake it, was published by Headline in 2002 and remained on the Sunday Times best seller list for 37 weeks. Hodder & Stoughton has now published Nobody's Child: The Lives of Abandoned Children (2005) which formed the basis of the BBC 1 documentaries series, FOUND, and, most recently, INTO DANGER, (2008) a study of men and women who risk their lives for work.

She lives just outside London.


"This award is made in recognition of her remarkable commitment in her public life, to transparency, altruism, integrity and truth in a world where self-interest and the hidden agenda are too often the norm, at every social level. She is a worthy example for women and for men, of all ages, of how a life may be fruitfully lived out to the benefit of the damaged, the deprived and the dispirited.

Kate Adie is from what she describes as a traditional background. Her family somewhat ecumenical, with diversity in their beliefs, extending across the wide range from Methodist to Roman Catholic. Whilst recognising the divisions that religion may bring, she has also found it useful in her occupation, in being able to understand the points of view of disparate ethnic groups with whom she has been involved.

Following her graduation in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, she began work as a studio technician with BBC local radio in Durham; moved to Bristol as a producer (specialising in farming and arts programmes) then worked as a Director in Television Outside Broadcasts, mainly on sport and religion. It was at the BBC in Plymouth that she first went into news, as a regional TV reporter.

Kate Adie came to BBC TV national news in 1979, covering general news stories, often abroad, and was Court Correspondent for two years. She has reported from many of the world's trouble spots and won awards for her coverage of Northern Ireland and the American bombing in Tripoli. It was on her return from China in June 1989 that she was promoted to Chief News Correspondent.

She has been widely recognised in a professional sense, with awards from the Royal Television Society in 1981, 1987 and 1989; from Monte Carlo International Television in 1981 and 1990; and the BAFTA Richard Dimbleby Award in 1990.

But Kate Adie's personal qualities have also been much admired and recognised by a variety of Universities. Through such contacts, she is involved with student seminar groups and considers it a huge privilege to interact with these enquiring minds, often anarchic, but which she believes give rise, usually, to well-balanced adults.

Over the last ten years she has covered China, the Gulf War, the war in the former Yugoslavia and events in Armenia, Albania and Rwanda. She was at Tiananmen Square on that horrendous night of the huge scale killing of students. She remembers how the Chinese army attacking its own people seemed so truly extraordinary and shocking.

In the Gulf War she had to join the Army as an Official War Correspondent and had to dig trenches! She recounts racing across the Saudi desert to war, and how different it felt being a part of those committed to the task in hand rather than a mere observer. She recalls how, under such circumstances, deep long-lasting friendships are forged.

Also, she spent almost four and a half years in the former Yugoslavia, and through this experience has come to recognise that civil war has its own special dangers since it is without the rules and principles of the Geneva Convention.

However, she is somewhat sceptical about the current trend towards constant counselling of those who experience trauma of one sort or another, believing that, in a sense, it patronises and possibly even serves only to placate the emptiness of the lives of vicarious counsellors, deprived of personal real life experiences themselves.

It is therefore, Vice-Chancellor, because of her exceptional service to the undernourished, the underprivileged and the under-represented of many different peoples of the world and her contribution to public service broadcasting and journalism that I invite you to confer on this special person, Kate Adie, OBE, FIJ, FRTS, the award of Honorary Doctor of the University."