To the Guardian Newsroom in Farringdon Road last night for a discussion, sponsored by Persephone Books and organised by English P.E.N., on the theme of the challenges faced by women war reporters. Actually, it wasn't the Guardian Newsroom itself but the building over the road with that name which they use for conferences. A panel of three women, Caroline Hawley the BBC's Middle East Correspondent, Maggie O'Kane of the Guardian famous for her reports from Sarajevo, and Ann McFerran who has reported on the aftermath of conflict in Uganda and Rwanda were interviewed by Anne Sebba, author of Battling for News: The Rise of the Woman Reporter. Anne put a series of sharp questions about whether being a woman made a difference to a reporter from war zones (the preferred term to "war reporter" which no one seemed to like much) but the three panellists remained stubbornly resistant to this line of questioning. They were just reporters, they said, and the most they could say was that in some areas of conflict in the Arab world as women they could get certain kinds of access to people, especially women, which would have been difficult for men. Maggie O'Kane, who halfway through the discussion actually used the prohibited word 'feminist' to describe herself, said that after she became a mother she did feel some anxiety about being separated from her son if she were arrested or detained. Her contribution was the most interesting and she no doubt shocked the cohorts of women journalism students packing the hall by saying that, actually, the game was up. "The time has passed for white Europeans, " she announced dramatically in response to an earnest inquiry about what made a good war reporter. What she meant was that we have entered a new phase of reporting from war zones in which white European journalists (male or female) would no longer be able to operate and it was the local reporters, the translators, or what she called "fixers", on the ground who needed to be trained and empowered to report. There was some anxiety that this might limit the ways in which wars were seen, if other perspectives weren't brought into play, but it seemed inevitable, certainly in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Another stimulating P.E.N. event.