Within months of arriving in Los Angeles to join the Nine Network’s US reporting team, Amelia Adams found herself on the streets of Washington DC, in the middle of a huge Black Lives Matter protest.
Despite being an experienced journalist who had reported from Iraq, as well as across Europe, Adams felt some trepidation.
Before diving into the crowd, she says, “I really thought about my tone and my language. I decided that I really needed to listen to the voices around me and try to get as many different voices as possible.”
Adams, who had expected to spend her first year in the US focused on the 2020 presidential campaign, was also conscious that “I was walking white privilege”, she told Macleay College journalism students.
“…In America, anyone could be and probably is armed”
“The riots in (Washington) DC were scary, because you know that, when you’re in a situation like that in America, anyone could be and probably is armed,” she said.
“That was a real learning experience for me.”
With the weeks of protests against police brutality, the ferocity of the COVID-19 epidemic in the US, and the outside world’s obsession with President Trump, Adams “hit the ground running’ in her new job, and has barely stopped since.
But the 37-year-old – who made news herself when she was posted to London two years ago with two small children – is accustomed to the breakneck pace of foreign reporting.
Speaking from Nine’s LA bureau, from the desk of former veteran 9News US bureau chief Robert Penfold, she recounted some of the most notable events she has reported on around the world.
“If you do that … you can get shot.”
Every location has had different challenges. “In Europe, you can talk the police around if you need to jump a roadblock,” said Adams.
“But obviously in the Middle East, if you do that, you and your whole crew can get shot …
“[In] Iraq, there was very much a feeling that anything could happen at any time.”
In the US, meanwhile, “a lot of people here are very anti-media at the moment, and as you would have seen, there were a lot of attacks on media.”
At the Black Lives Matter rallies. Adams had to deal with some interventions from the crowd while reporting live.
“I’ve been on air before where I’ve been approached, heckled or yelled at. That happens, unfortunately,” she said.
“This, though, was the first time I’ve ever been on air when I’ve actually had people standing, listening to me, then interrupting me and essentially hijacking the live cross while arguing with me.
“I had to then work that into an interview and a conversation. In the middle of rolling coverage. That is very challenging.”
Adams noted that US news reporting is “very agenda-driven”, with “different networks generally very heavily biased for or against the President”.
“Where I was in DC, it turned very political because of the way the President decided to manage it – sending in the troops [to clear protesters]. That in itself added a whole other crazy element.”
Reporting on Trump, “I couldn’t believe the trolls I was getting, or the things people were saying to me about my journalism.
“Now I’ve realised, if [I’m] reporting on something to do with Donald Trump, you’re going to get smashed from one side or the other. Either [I’m] too lenient towards him or you’re too hard against him.”
Before her first posting as Europe Correspondent, Adams was a regular studio presenter, anchoring morning and afternoon bulletins as well as filling in regularly for the evening edition.
“I thought, when I had my family, that my dreams of being a foreign correspondent were over. So I didn’t ever talk about it or float it, because [Nine] had never sent a mum [overseas] before.
“I guess in hindsight that I am a little disappointed in myself that I had made that assumption. It was a real surprise for me when I was offered to go to London, and I’m really stoked that the bosses didn’t see it that way.
“I felt a huge responsibility because I thought, if I do pull it off and do it well, then that opens the door for other mums to do this job in the future, and hopefully a new era of foreign correspondents for commercial television.”
Covering stories from Middle East war zones, Adams recalls moments when she felt her life was in danger. But she was frustrated when her boss told her not to cross the Iraqi border into Syria, because it was too dangerous.
“I was furious. I argued with him, and I still have a message to this day that says, ‘One day you’re going to laugh at the fact that you tried to convince me it was safe for you to go to Syria.’
“At the time I was so focused on trying to get across the border and get the story, so I was very disappointed.”
Adams witnessed civilians fleeing for their lives across the border, and even jumping into the Tigris River.
“We naturally went to find them and hear their stories and what they were fleeing …I was so conscious of trying to capture it and tell their story for our audience, regardless of the language barrier.”
Asked what she would ask President Trump if granted an interview, Adams replied: “I would like to know what his plan is, for 2020 and beyond.
“I feel like it is strange that we are at this point of an election year, and I couldn’t really tell you a clear mandate the President is running on.”
She added: “Sadly, I don’t think he is going to agree to a 9News interview any time soon – but wouldn’t that be fun?”