You don’t become indifferent. There’s a lot of rubbish that flies about, about people becoming desensitized. That’s a very extreme case, psychologically. Most people are very shocked by what they see, but it doesn’t mean they’re completely knocked off their feet, because if you go to war, well, it is going to be grim.
More: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in TV journalism for women since you began your career?
KA: In journalism generally, many more women have come into the business in the last 40 years, which is a great thing. And increasingly, there is less overt sexism or discrimination in Western democratic societies—you’ll still find it elsewhere. But on the the whole, with fair employment laws, women have gotten into the business and they take on the responsibility of reporting the toughest assignments. And I think this is a good thing, because I’ve never thought any story—even war—is an all-male subject.
It’s much more than the boys with the toys, as they say—you know, the weaponry and the hardware and fighting. It’s about entire societies convulsed with violence and fear. And I think a woman reports that absolutely as well as any man.
More: Do you ever want to get back in the field?
KA: Well, what you’ve got to understand is that television reporting in the last 10 years has begun to withdraw, and what you now have with the 24-hour channels worldwide is a kind of running commentary rather than eyewitness reporting. If you are live on 24-hour television, you’re not doing that from the middle of a battlefield. You’re not doing that from the center of violence. You could not stand up and talk, nor could you have a satellite dish, in the center of the action. So what has happened is that quite a lot of television coverage has moved from the actual battlefield, because so much is done live. And the kind of reporting that I and my colleagues used to do has pretty well—well, it’s much less than it used to be, and I wouldn’t fancy doing the commentary job at all.
I wanted to go in there, see with my own eyes what was happening, get my own pictures. And that is done less and less these days by television stations worldwide.
More: Do you think it’s a financial issue?
KA: It’s a massive issue, [a combination] of a number of things. It is to do with money, it is to do, to a certain extent, I think, with a complex set of social happenings—you can see it in the United States and in Europe—how television is becoming absolutely a medium dominated by entertainment. I mean, it always was to a certain extent, particularly in the States. In the States, there used to be much more emphasis given to nightly news, and this has now faded. It is changing fast, and the Internet is adding to this.
More: What advice do you have for women starting out in journalism, especially those who want to chase the dangerous stories?
KA: I just think that women should be absolutely equal when going to report and [have] the opportunities to report whatever subject. Reporting is about life, it’s about the world, it’s a mirror to life as we live it. And women are as much a part of that life [as men] and, therefore, should be active in showing ourselves to each other. …It’s adult, educated, observant, curious people going out there, men and women, and telling us what we’re like.
I’m an optimist. I think that it’s a good thing to see what’s happened in the last 40-odd years, and I think the prospects for women today are so much better. We haven’t won all the battles, but I think the future looks bright.
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Meet the other 2011 Courage in Journalism Award Winners: