In her latest book
“There are different kinds of fear. I could describe half a dozen different kinds. The main thing is to acknowledge that you get frightened. Denying it is when you can get into a lot of trouble.”
However phlegmatic about personal risk she may appear, there are plenty of real-life examples of journalists who have done and died: more than 100 in Iraq alone.
“After I’d written my autobiography, a lot of people said, ‘Oh, you must have a dangerous job’,” says Kate.
“I would say, ‘Well, only if you make mistakes and the unexpected happens’. I never woke up in the morning and thought: What’s the danger going to be this morning? I wonder what’s lurking around the corner. It just wasn’t part of how the job was.”
Consequently, there is no chapter in her fourth book headed
She was never a daredevil, Kate insists, looking back on her childhood in Sunderland. The war had recently ended, the grown-ups didn’t want to talk about it, and “danger belonged to the past”.
In the book she notes that her degree subject at Newcastle University, Scandinavian studies, “qualified me for a massively important national role – should the Vikings ever invade us again”.
But her eventual choice of profession wasn’t exactly flower arranging, was it?
“There have been moments, yes there have,” she allows.
Tiananmen Square was one of them. She recalls that it was such a huge story that normal safety-first rules were compromised.
“A lot of TV people assumed the action would be in the square itself so they stayed in their hotels, which were nearby. But actually a lot of shooting took place in the streets around the square, which is where we were.”
She certainly doesn’t count herself as a hero. But it’s a title she would readily ascribe to men like diver Gie Couwenbergh who saved dozens of lives in the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster, and the “wonderful” bomb disposal pioneer Stuart Archer, now in his 90s.
Both are the subjects of crisply written and often hair-raising chapters in the book.
Kate reported on the Herald of Free Enterprise tragedy and writes with particular admiration for Gie.
A lot of the people who live with danger are regular guys, like him, she says.
But you could hardly say that about the armed robber (Bobby Cummines, now going straight) or the prostitute (Amanda, a 33-year-old mum).
“You could go and write a book about heroes but I didn’t want to do that. Prostitution is one of the most dangerous ways of earning a living and all the arguments about it are very complicated. It’s not just a moral thing but it is a very risky business and it is getting worse.”
Any list invites controversy but Kate says: “It’s my list and I don’t make any apologies for it.”
Kate, who now presents from the safety of a BBC desk job with
In the end she came up with just one: “a common thread of purposeful determination”.
Into Danger: Risking Your Life For Work is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £20.
The professions insurers like to avoid
Apart from the obvious threat of a fall, steeplejacks run a grave risk of being struck by lightning.
Demolition/bomb disposal/mine clearance expert
If you didn’t have Fred Dibnah down as a hero think again. Demolition and explosives work is not for the faint-hearted.
Jetting out of Tees Valley and Newcastle airports might appear glamorous and – in terms of the number of accidents – relatively safe, but insurers classify commercial pilots, especially those flying light aircraft, as an extremely high risk.
Apart from the obvious threat of drowning, divers are also prone to mental problems caused by working underwater for long periods of time and to possible surges or deficiencies in oxygen supply.
Oil or gas rigger
North Sea oil rig workers are judged to be at a high risk of work-related injury – but their premiums are much lower than colleagues working in the Persian Gulf or off the coast of Nigeria, partly because these offshore rigs are seen as prime terrorist targets.
For those in peril on the sea, insurers have a heavy weighting. The sheer unpredictability of the weather and currents means it’s classified as
one of the highest-risk occupations.
Private security guard insurance is calculated according to the country in which you’re operating – those in a war zone or in a country with a current Foreign Office travel warning are heavily penalised.