How To Cover The War Of The Waleses

PREPARING TO COVER A ROYAL divorce is a little like deploying for a war: you have to have the right forces ready at the right time. In the fall of 1994, Foreign Editor Nancy Cooper concluded (a bit prematurely, as it turned out) that the Prince and Princess of Wales might well divorce within the coming year. As she and London bureau chief Daniel Pedersen began to plan NEWSWEEK'S own reporting on the impending split, they drew up a list of the very best British royal-watchers, who could make unique contributions to the coverage. One obvious name was that of Andrew Morton, whose book, "Diana-Her True Story," had opened the floodgates of royal indiscretion in 1992. Another was veteran broadcast journalist Jonathan Dimbleby, Prince Charles's authorized biographer. Pedersen managed to sign up both of them.

Morton's contribution, an article entitled "Diana-Her Life Alone," appeared in the Dec. 4, 1995, issue of NEWSWEEK, after the princess gave a stunning television interview in which she talked about bulimia, depression and infidelity (her own and her husband's), and warned that she wouldn't "go quietly." Last week, with Diana finally agreeing to a divorce but still arguing over the terms, Cooper and Pedersen deployed the rest of their forces. Dimbleby has not written or spoken publicly about Prince Charles since 1994, when he published his biography, "The Prince of Wales," and interviewed Charles on television, eliciting a memorable confession of adultery. In this issue of NEWSWEEK, Dimbleby writes, with sympathetic detachment, about the prince's messy past and what the future might hold for him.

Steadily scouting for talent, Pedersen also signed up author Sarah Bradford, a viscountess whose new book, "Elizabeth, a Biography of Britain's Queen," will be published in America next month. She is joined by a distinguished American in London, Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of Burke's Peerage, the definitive guide to the aristocracy. Pedersen marshaled the special contributors while doing his own reporting on the royal family-and coping with the rest of the news, including the resumption of IRA bombing in London and the ensuing negotiations on Nor-them Ireland. His only complaint is that he had to endure "a very embarrassing photo session in front of Buckingham Palace," where his picture was taken for this article. Pedersens next posting will have its own challenges. He'll be moving to Atlanta this summer-just in time for the 1996 Olympics.