Lara Logan used to cover Baghdad for CBS News at the peak of the fighting in Iraq, then became the network's chief foreign correspondent, and just a few days ago it was announced that she'll be coming to Washington with a new title as chief foreign affairs correspondent. She has clearly been an up-and-coming star on CBS, where she sometimes appears on the flagship show "60 Minutes." She's been described in profiles as resourceful, certainly ambitious and seemingly fearless.
She has also been passionate about something that's been sorely lacking: Trying to get stories about the reality on the ground in Iraq and more recently Afghanistan onto American TV, where citizens can see for themselves what is happening in the wars that we pay for with our tax dollars and the blood of our citizens. In 2007, she sent out an email begging for help because her CBS producers wouldn't air a graphic story, that included critical remarks about the U.S. occupation from Iraqi civilians, called "The Battle for Haifa Street."
Logan’s email, with the one-word subject line of ‘help’, was sent to friends and colleagues imploring them to lobby CBS to highlight that people are interested in seeing the piece. In it, Logan argues that the story is “not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore… It should be seen. And people should know about this.”
In fact, the story never appeared on CBS as filmed, although it did appear on its Web site and some footage made it into other stories. But Logan has remained a critic of the way that the war is portrayed on the American media, and when she appeared on the popular "Daily Show" with Jon Stewart this month her outspoken words were hard to ignore.
Five years into the war in Iraq and nearly seven years into the war in Afghanistan, getting news of the conflicts onto television is harder than ever.
“If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts,” Ms. Logan said.
Logan told the New York Times later that CBS's bureau in Baghdad had been drastically downsized:
Ms. Logan said she begged for months to be embedded with a group of Navy Seals, and when she came back with the story, a CBS producer said to her, “One guy in uniform looks like any other guy in a uniform.” In the follow-up phone interview, Ms. Logan said the producer no longer worked at CBS. And in both interviews, she emphasized that many journalists at CBS News are pushing for war coverage, specifically citing Jeff Fager, the executive producer of “60 Minutes.” CBS News won a Peabody Award last week for a “60 Minutes” report about a Marine charged in the killings at Haditha.
On “The Daily Show,” Ms. Logan echoed the comments of other journalists when she said that many Americans seem uninterested in the wars now.
A number of bloggers picked up Logan's comments on "The Daily Show" and to the Times, and the video was a huge hit on the Internet. She was on with Stewart last week and was featured in the Times article on Monday. Later this week, a story appeared about Logan -- not exactly your normal A-list celebrity -- in the pages of the National Enquirer, which of course had nothing to do with Logan's actual news coverage of Iraq or her pointed criticism of the U.S. media.
The story was strictly about allegations involving Logan's personal life. It was quickly picked up by some other outlets, some surprising, like the Huffington Post, and some not surprising at all. In fact, the story was splashed across the front page of this morning's New York Post, the tabloid that is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who is also owner of (among many things) the Fox News Channel, the leading producer of braindead pro-war journalism that is the exact opposite of Logan's groundbreaking work. You'd also be shocked, I'm sure, to learn that the Post article is linked on the highly popular, conservative leaning Drudge Report. I'm not going to link to the articles -- use "the Google" if you must -- but to give you a flavor of this important news story, the Post cover shows a smiling Logan over the large headline, "Sexty Minutes."
If you do read the stories, you'd be hard-pressed to see why these allegations are suddenly rushing out now. One traces back to a court matter filed back in January. The second part of the article is old news, too -- dating back at least to last year. As the Post notes in the one part of the article that I will mention, it's a saga that "first broke on the freerepublic.com in December."
The freerepublic.com? As in, the ultraconservative Web site where reporters and photojournalists who report truthfully from Iraq are frequently attacked or smeared. Indeed, it seems that attacks on Logan in the right-wing blogopshere are nothing new -- last year, conservative Michelle Malkin falsely charged that "Haifa Street" story contained footage provided by al-Qaeda.
But this is different -- the smearing of Lara Logan is bleeding into the mainstream, more widely read media, and it's getting personal. And of course it's easy to play devil's advocate, because gossip about certain types of TV personalities -- certainly the local news anchors in a market like mine, Philadelphia -- is standard newspaper fare, especially when the personalities are good-looking, as Logan surely is. But she's not an anchorwoman, just a network war correspondent whose not even based around here, and even if these stories about her personal foibles are true, and who knows about that, it's simply not Page 1 news.
But the timing here really stinks. Is this just another low-grade tabloid scandal -- or a message to journalists who dare to criticize big corporate media's growing blackout on news from Iraq?
Consider me highly suspicious.
Footnote: In the short time that it took me to write this post, a link to an article about the "scandal" from a site called Rightpundits was added to her Wikipedia entry -- it just never stops.
As a bonus, here's video of Logan's "Daily Show" appearance: