This article was originally posted in the Connecting Newsletter.
By Linda Deutsch, JAWS member
The byline is familiar to all who read international news: Edith M. Lederer. But to her world of friends and colleagues she is even more well known by her nickname, Edie. As she marks her 50th anniversary with the Associated Press, Edie Lederer may be the longest serving woman reporter in AP history. (This writer put in 48 years).
Edie, the diminutive woman with the big laugh and the glamorous wardrobe who handles the biggest stories in the world with aplomb, has become a symbol of the achievements of women journalists worldwide. As a foreign correspondent covering wars from Vietnam to the Middle East she plunged into a world of reporting that was dominated by men when she came to the AP in in March of 1966. And although she wore earrings with her combat helmet, she was as tough and courageous as anyone covering that dangerous beat. She has seen the horrors of war up close and moved from country to country, adjusting to local cultures, cuisine and languages and representing the wire service as a virtual ambassador to the world.
I met Edie Lederer shortly after we both joined the wire service. I came a year after she did. Edie, a graduate of Cornell University, had attained a master’s degree in journalism from Stanford University, which put her in the proximity of San Francisco where she joined the AP bureau. I was in Los Angeles and our paths crossed several times before we worked together in 1972 covering the high profile trial of University of California Professor Angela Davis in San Jose. Plunged into a politically volatile case involving the Black Panthers and the Communist Party, Edie and I were the AP’s team. We became lifelong friends even though our paths in the AP were very different after that. Many thought we looked like sisters and we remain that close to this day. We have traveled together to much of Asia, India and Europe.
After the Angela Davis trial, I went into covering trials and Edie went to war – literally.
Look at a summary of her accomplishments and you are likely to gasp. She has worked on every continent except Antarctica covering wars, famines, nuclear issues and political upheavals. She was the first woman assigned full time to the AP staff reporting the Vietnam War. But that was just the first of her many wars. She also covered the 1973 Middle East war, the war in Afghanistan, the first Gulf War, the conflict in Northern Ireland, the end of the war in Bosnia, the civil war in Somalia and the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda.
She was AP’s first female bureau chief overseas running the bureau in Lima, Peru and then in Puerto Rico before deciding she would rather go back to reporting. She was based in many foreign posts, living in Hong Kong, Nairobi, Kenya and an extended stay in London from 1982 to 1998 where she became a roving correspondent in Europe. She helped cover the downfall of communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union and the Romanian revolution. Covering the conflict in Ireland she was on the scene of violence. In London she also wrote about military and international security issues and global problems ranging from population growth to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Her knowledge of the military and international affairs is without parallel and made her the perfect candidate for her next assignment.
In 1998 Edie became AP’s chief correspondent at the United Nations, reporting on the diplomatic side of conflicts in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Darfur, Kosovo, Congo and Sierra Leone and major global issues from the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea to climate change, combating poverty and women’s rights. With her connections to ambassadors and the Secretary General himself, she has broken many exclusive stories. They turn to “Edie of the AP” when they are about to make news. They trust her and know she will get the story right.
Edie is the recipient of numerous awards, including the International Women’s Media Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. She co-authored “War Torn,” a book by nine women who covered the Vietnam War.
With her hectic schedule at the UN she also finds time for one of the busiest social schedules of anyone I know. When she’s not at some diplomatic dinner, she is dining with friends who are in New York from one of the many outposts where she lived. Edie has friends all over the world and she manages to keep up with all of them. She remains an avid traveler and if she’s not overseas, she may be visiting me in California where her West Coast fans clear their calendars for her arrival. She is always at the center of the fun.
Edie shows no sign of slowing down. Maybe she is taking a cue from her mother, who recently turned 104 years old.