Edith Lederer - Legendary journalist, breaking boundaries in the newsroom and beyond

Date: Monday, May 4, 2015

Edith Lederer
Photo courtesy of Edith Lederer

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." Yet, women are too often relegated to second-class status. There can be no excuse for discrimination against women or men….Women have made significant inroads in reporting and editing but only a few have cracked the glass ceiling and become CEOs of major media organizations. And the portrayal of women in the media far too often focuses on sex rather than brains."

An icon, an opinion maker, a talented writer, and a feminist.  A household name for the UN diplomatic community and anyone who follows international affairs, Edith Lederer of the U.S. got a rare opportunity to be a war reporter in the 70s, after using her vacation days to go to Saigon and lobbying hard with the bosses for a foreign correspondent post in Viet Nam, making her the first American female foreign correspondent for the Associated Press (AP) globally. Fearless and determined, with a passion for travel and a never-give up attitude, today Lederer is arguably one of the most accomplished journalists and commentators on international affairs and diplomacy. She has reported on most major global conflicts in the last 45 years and has been at the forefront of global journalism.

Along with being a pioneer in war reporting, she was also the first woman to ever head a foreign bureau for the AP, when she landed in Lima, Peru in 1975. Her life has myriad tales. Fearless and creative, she once pretended to be a rug buyer to conceal herself as she traveled in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion to report on the political situation and she was one of the few Western journalists to report from North Korea.

She has been AP's Chief Correspondent at the United Nations since 1998, where she is a legend in her own right. Her love for international affairs is paralleled only by her passion for gender equality and women's rights, having started her commitment to women's issues early in her career. That passion has led her to many stories and many places, including to Beijing, at the historic Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, where she led the AP team.

Winner of four lifetime achievement awards from the Overseas Press Club, the International Women's Media Foundation, the Washington Press Club Foundation and the Newswomen's Club of New York, she has covered the news from many hotspots, from the Arab-Israeli war in 1973 to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the 1991 Gulf War where she broke the story of the first U.S. fighter jets taking off to bomb Baghdad. At the UN, she has written about the diplomatic side of conflicts from Iraq, Libya and Syria to Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Lederer is co-author of a book with eight other women who reported from Viet Nam entitled "War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Who Covered Vietnam", which was published in 2002. She was also part of the AP team that won the Managing Editors award for coverage of the 25th anniversary of the end of the war.

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