June 26, 2007 / 10:40 AM / in 11 years

Flak jacket to dressing gown, a reporter's progress

LONDON (Reuters) - Since she hurt her back a few years ago, Charlotte Eagar can no longer wear the heavy flak jacket that every war reporter needs.

Instead, clad in her dressing gown, she is running a fledgling publishing business from her apartment in West London.

Advances in technology mean Reportage Press can keep costs down and publish the sort of books on foreign affairs that mainstream houses shun in favour of ghosted showbiz autobiographies and TV spin-offs.

“I’ve been working for three hours in my bed this morning,” Eagar said in an interview with Reuters. “You don’t need an expensive office.”

A veteran foreign correspondent who has covered the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, Eagar now wants to publish books about abroad that appeal to people whose cultural horizons go beyond reality television and celebrity gossip.

“We know who our readers are. They are interested in foreign affairs and we know how to get in touch with them, “ she said. “We know the Web sites they look at.”

Reportage’s first book came out of a discussion round the kitchen table. Author Rosie Whitehouse complained that she had written a memoir of her life as the wife of a war reporter but couldn’t get it published.

“Are We There Yet? Travels with my Frontline Family”, is a clear-eyed account of what it is like bringing up a family while her husband Tim Judah, war correspondent for The Economist and The Times, is absent for long periods on Bosnian battlefields.

At one point, Judah is so ill with flu that Whitehouse drives him from Belgrade to Sarajevo in the family car, along with the children, because she is worried that he might crash.

As the shooting starts and the barricades go up, she and the children have to make a hurried getaway and are evacuated along with international observers taking the last flight out of the doomed city.

Most war reporters live emotional lives as chaotic as the events they cover, but “Are We There Yet” shows there is another way.

“You can have a happy marriage to a foreign correspondent,” Eagar said. “But you have to follow the drum.”

Reportage Press (www.reportagepress.com) donates a small percentage of profits to charities that help frontline newsgatherers and plans to publish books about Cambodia, Rwanda and the Spanish civil war in the coming months.

Eagar admits she is swimming against the cultural tide by aiming to sell books about foreign lands at a time when most people appear to be more interested in Big Brother and Paris Hilton.

That must eventually change, she said. “It can’t continue to be fashionable not to know about interesting things, can it?”

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