Kate Adie

Kathryn Adie CBE DL (born 19 September 1945)[2] is an English journalist. She was Chief News Correspondent for BBC News between 1989 and 2003, during which time she reported from war zones around the world.

Kate Adie

Adie at the Gibraltar International Literary Festival in 2017
Born (1945-09-19) 19 September 1945
Alma materUniversity of Newcastle upon Tyne
Notable creditChief News Correspondent for BBC News
AwardsRichard Dimbleby Award (1990)
Fellowship Award (2018)

She retired from the BBC in early 2003 and works as a freelance presenter with From Our Own Correspondent on BBC Radio 4.

Early life

Adie in 2014

Adie was born in Whitley Bay, Northumberland.[3] She was adopted as a baby by a Sunderland pharmacist and his wife, John and Maud Adie,[4] and grew up there. Her birth parents were Irish Catholics and she made contact with her birth family in 1993, establishing a loving relationship lasting more than 20 years with her birth mother 'Babe'.[5] She failed to trace her birth father John Kelly, or his family from Waterford, despite public appeals, she knows only that he had a brother (her blood uncle) Michael.[6]

She had an independent school education at Sunderland Church High School, and then studied at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, where she obtained a degree in Scandinavian Studies and performed in several Gilbert and Sullivan productions. During her third year at Newcastle, she also taught English in sub-arctic northern Sweden.[7]


Her career with the BBC began, after graduation, as a station assistant at BBC Radio Durham. By 1976, she was a regional TV news reporter in Plymouth and Southampton,[8] before a move to BBC national television news in 1979. She was the duty reporter one evening in May 1980 and first on the scene when the Special Air Service (SAS) went in to break up the Iranian Embassy siege. As smoke bombs exploded in the background and SAS soldiers abseiled in to rescue the hostages, Adie reported live and unscripted to one of the largest news audiences ever while crouched behind a car door.[9] This proved to be her big break.[10] Adie reported extensively for BBC News, including from the north London crime scenes of serial killer Dennis Nilsen, in 1983.[5][11]

Adie was thereafter regularly dispatched to report on disasters and conflicts throughout the 1980s, including The Troubles in Northern Ireland,[12] the American bombing of Tripoli in 1986 (her reporting of which was criticised by the Conservative Party Chairman Norman Tebbit),[13][14][15] and the Lockerbie bombing of 1988.[16][17] She was promoted to Chief News Correspondent in 1989 and held the role for fourteen years.[18]

One of her most significant assignments was to report the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. She was reportedly injured after being grazed by a bullet which had "shaved the skin off her arm", as she ran through Tiananmen Square at the height of the protests.[19][20] Nearly thirty years later, she said that she and her team were the only crew out in the square, and so were able to witness "the massacre by the Chinese army of its own citizens in Beijing in 1989", which had never been acknowledged by the government nor reported in China. She said, "... at least we were there and we have the evidence of what they did. They would love to erase it from history".[21][22] Adie famously had a public disagreement with fellow British journalist John Simpson, who reportedly had accused her of falsifying her reports on Tiananmen Square.[23]

Major assignments followed in the Gulf War, the war in the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the war in Sierra Leone in 2000.[16]

In Libya she met leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. She was also shot by a drunk and irate Libyan army commander after refusing, as a journalist, to act as an intermediary between the British and Libyan governments; the bullet, fired at point-blank range, nicked her collar bone but she did not suffer permanent harm.[24]

While she was in Yugoslavia, her leg was injured in Bosnia and she met Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić.[25]

A newspaper cartoon features two soldiers, one with a tattered flag "To Iraq" on the barrel of his machine gun, and the caption "We can't start yet... Kate Adie isn't here."[26] Her insistence upon being on the spot elicited the wry adage that "a good decision is getting on a plane at an airport where Kate Adie is getting off".[27][28]

In 2003 Adie retired from the BBC, where she had been Chief News Correspondent.[29] She subsequently worked as a freelance journalist, where among other work she gives regular reports on Radio New Zealand, as a public speaker, as well as participating in many of the 500 iPlayer episodes[30] of From Our Own Correspondent on BBC Radio 4. She hosted two five-part series of Found, a Leopard Films production for BBC One, in 2005 and 2006. The series considered the life experiences of adults affected by adoption and what it must be like to start one's life as a foundling.[31]

In 2017 she was one of the speakers at the Gibraltar International Literary Festival.[32]

After being appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2018 Birthday Honours, Adie warned the public that journalism was under attack:[33]

We seem to be living through a time where there are threats to journalists everywhere, whether it's repression or censorship, and it's hugely important to recognise that the intention of journalism is to tell it as it is and we need to do that more than ever now.

Adie was appointed Chancellor of Bournemouth University on 7 January 2019, succeeding Baron Phillips of Worth Matravers.[34] In her address, she warned postgraduate journalism students that confirming information and verifying news sources were critical in the current climate of fake news. She stressed the importance of personally verifying news sources. "Getting your person there is an absolutely standard lesson... news is not news without verification. ...If you only have the station cat to send, send them!".[35]

Awards and honours

Charitable associations

In 2017 Adie was appointed as ambassador for SSAFA, the UK’s oldest military charity.[46] Adie is currently also an ambassador for SkillForce[47] and the non-governmental organisation Farm Africa.[48] In July 2018 Adie became an Ambassador for the medical charity Overseas Plastic Surgery Appeal.[49]

Adie is a fan of Sunderland AFC.[50] In 2011, she took part in the Sunderland A.F.C. charity Foundation of Light event.[51]


  • The Kindness of Strangers. Headline. 2002. ISBN 0-7553-1073-X. - autobiography
  • Corsets to Camouflage: Women and War. Coronet. 2003. ISBN 0-340-82060-8.
  • Nobody's Child. Hodder & Stoughton. 2005. ISBN 0-340-83800-0.
  • Into Danger: People Who Risk Their Lives for Work. Hodder & Stoughton. September 2008. ISBN 978-0-340-93321-3.
  • Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One. Hodder & Stoughton. September 2013. ISBN 978-1-4447-5967-9.

Adie's role as a BBC television journalist covering the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege in Princes Gate, central London, is included in 6 Days. The role was played by actress Abbie Cornish.[52]

The satirical British puppet TV show Spitting Image depicted Adie as a thrill seeker giving her the title "BBC Head of Bravery" and featuring her puppet in dangerous situations.


  1. "Kate Adie". From Our Own Correspondent. 29 August 2009. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  2. "Laureation address – Kathryn Adie". Laureation by Professor John Anderson, School of International Relations. University of St Andrews. 22 June 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2020.; "Media horoscope: Kate Adie". The Guardian. 29 October 2001. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  3. David Simpson. "Hall of Fame". England's North East.
  4. Summerskill, Ben (14 October 2001). "The Observer Profile: Kate Adie". The Guardian. London.
  5. "Dennis Nielsen - Top podcast episodes". Listen Notes. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  6. "War reporter Adie seeks to solve mystery of Irish father". www.irishexaminer.com. 11 April 2015.
  7. "Kate Adie CBE". Newcastle University.
  8. Hutchinson, Lisa (8 June 2018). "Renowned war correspondent Kate Adie given CBE in Queen's Honours List". nechronicle.
  9. Summerskill, Ben (14 October 2001). "The Observer Profile: Kate Adie" via www.theguardian.com.
  10. "Kate Adie". BBC News. BBC. 3 January 2003. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  11. "Inside house of horrors where serial killer Nilsen dismembered and hid victims". Enfield Independent. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  12. "Kate Adie CBE – Alumni and Supporters – Newcastle University". www.ncl.ac.uk.
  13. "The Libyan Bombing – 1986". BBC. 14 April 1986. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  14. "Thatcher forced to intervene over Tebbit's 'obsessive' criticism of BBC, papers reveal". The Guardian. 23 January 2017. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  15. Higgins, Michael; Smith, Angela (26 August 2010). "Not One of U.S.: Kate Adie's report of the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli and its critical aftermath". Journal of Journalism Studies. Taylor & Francis Online. 12 (3): 344–358. doi:10.1080/1461670X.2010.504568. S2CID 142827159.
  16. "Kate Adie OBE". Women in the Humanities. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  17. Tweedie, Katrina (17 December 2018). "Lockerbie 30 years on: The town remembers but there are few words". dailyrecord. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  18. "Kate Adie to receive Bafta Fellowship". BBC News. 30 April 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  19. Johnston, Lucy (27 May 2018). "BBC legend Kate Adie was hit by Chinese bullet in Beijing massacre – but kept quiet". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 20 March 2022.
  20. "Kate Adie talks about her life..." The Westmorland Gazette. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  21. Bevan, Darren (3 September 2017). "BBC veteran Kate Adie on her role in Kiwi director's new movie". Stuff.
  22. "Documentary – I Was There: Kate Adie on Tiananmen Square" (video). Dailymotion. 10 March 2020.
  23. "Flak jacket and pearls". the Guardian. 29 January 2003. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  24. Adie, Kate (2002). The Kindness of Strangers. London: Headline Book Publishing. pp. 336–7, 425.
  25. "He was a smart, rather vain man". BBC News. 22 July 2008.
  26. Adie, Kate (2002). The Kindness of Strangers. London: Headline Book Publishing.
  27. "BBC Veteran War Reporter Kate Adie visits Pearson Engineering". Pearson Engineering. 1 July 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  28. Wallace, Wyndham (7 March 2011). "News of the World: Kate Adie Interviewed On Music And War". The Quietus. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  29. "Adie quits BBC after 35 years". www.telegraph.co.uk. 29 January 2003.
  30. "BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent Podcast". BBC. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  31. "Found: Productions". Leopard Films. Archived from the original on 14 September 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  32. "Gibraltar Literary Festival – Speakers – International Speakers". www.gibraltarliteraryfestival.com.
  33. "Broadcaster Kate Adie warns of threats to journalism as she collects CBE". British Telecom. Press Association. 11 October 2018. Archived from the original on 28 May 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  34. "Broadcaster and author Kate Adie begins tenure as new BU Chancellor". www.bournemouth.ac.uk. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  35. "Kate Adie visits Bournemouth University". The Breaker. 23 January 2019.
  36. "1990 Television Richard Dimbleby Award – BAFTA Awards". awards.bafta.org.
  37. The 1993 New Year Honours list in The Gazette.
  38. "Kate Adie named as County Deputy Lieutenant". Dorset Echo.
  39. "Kate Adie OBE to Receive BAFTA Fellowship". www.bafta.org. 30 April 2018.
  40. "Kathryn ADIE". www.thegazette.co.uk.
  41. "Honorary Fellows 2006". York St John University.
  42. "Honorary graduates – Your Alumni Community – Alumni – Nottingham Trent University". www.ntualumni.org.uk.
  43. "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". bath.ac.uk. University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  44. "Honorary Awards". www.royalholloway.ac.uk.
  45. "Plymouth University". Archived from the original on 25 June 2014.
  46. "Kate Adie OBE announced as SSAFA Ambassador". Forces Pension Society. 9 May 2017.
  47. "Patrons Supporting Us – The Prince William Award – Skillforce". Prince William Award. 26 July 2021.
  48. "Latest news from Farm Africa". www.farmafrica.org.
  49. "Our Ambassadors – Overseas Plastic Surgery Appeal (OPSA)". Overseas Plastic Surgery Appeal (OPSA).
  50. "SAFC Foundation founded". Sir Bob Murray.
  51. "Carols of Light charity fundraising event – Durham University". www.dur.ac.uk.
  52. Darren Bevan (3 September 2017). "BBC veteran Kate Adie on her role in Kiwi director's new movie". Stuff.co.nz.

Further reading

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