Journalism needs Lara Logan
Former “60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan is making a comeback in broadcast journalism — a comeback that the 48-year-old veteran reporter never should have had to make in the first place.
You probably know Logan’s story by now: She was on top of the world as a journalist for the most popular, most influential broadcast news magazine in TV history. Then, in 2011, while on assignment in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, she was sexually assaulted while surrounded by a mob of men.
“I have one arm on Ray (her bodyguard),” Logan told CBS News a few months after the attack. “I’ve lost the fixer, I’ve lost the drivers. I’ve lost everybody except him. And I feel them tearing at my clothing. I think my shirt, my sweater, was torn off completely. My shirt was around my neck. I felt the moment that my bra tore. They tore the metal clips of my bra. They tore those open.” She went on to describe being beaten and sexually assaulted by the mob of men, who took photos of her as they tore off her underwear.
After 30 more minutes of this hell, Logan was dragged and eventually dropped into a group of Muslim women, who convinced soldiers to intervene.
“She looked like a rag doll. She looked completely limp,” her producer, Max McClennan, told “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley in an interview. “She looked like someone who was physically, emotionally and mentally spent. Overwhelmed.”
Logan was flown home and spent four days in a Washington hospital. She even received a call from President Obama at the time. “Violence against journalists (is) unacceptable and … the perpetrators of violence need to be held accountable,” then-White House press secretary Jay Carney said following the president’s call.
In a 2014 story headlined “Benghazi and the Bombshell,” New York Magazine’s Joe Hagan characterized the sexual assault as Logan being “groped.” Logan is now suing New York Media, the parent company of New York Magazine, for $25 million. Hagan has moved to Vanity Fair, but New York Media has said in a statement to The Hill that it has confidence in the story: “The New York Magazine article was thoroughly vetted and fact-checked, and we stand by our reporting.”
Hagan’s story focused on Logan’s “60 Minutes” report about the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. Her report was retracted one month after it aired because it was determined that a key interview in the story included false information: British security contractor Dylan Davies’s misleading statements about his actions during the Benghazi attack.
Davies’s book, “The Embassy House,” included the same apparently false account of his actions, and publisher Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS Corp., recalled the book as a result.
Weeks after the story aired, Logan apologized publicly on “CBS This Morning” regarding Davies’s account being included in her piece, but she stated that the essential parts of the report remained true.
No matter: Logan was placed in CBS News purgatory for months, with no word on her status with the news organization. She eventually was brought back into the “60 Minutes” fold, but only as a part-time correspondent.
At the time of the Hagan piece, her compensation was $2.15 million. Her next contract was reduced to $750,000. She parted ways with CBS in 2018.
Unpack that for a moment: Logan was sexually assaulted while on assignment in Egypt. The following year, she got a story wrong because a source lied to her. Many journalists and news organizations have had far worse transgressions that resulted in no punishment whatsoever. Just go back and look at some of the reporting during special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Given all the times Logan reported from war zones and hotspots for 17 years, and all the times she was in harm’s way to get stories, she was owed far, far better treatment than she received.
Last year, Logan returned to reporting, this time for Sinclair Broadcast Group; her beat primarily was the immigration crisis along the U.S. southern border. That focus continues with Fox Nation, Fox News Channel’s paid subscription service, on the program “Lara Logan Has No Agenda.”
She said the program “will be a journalism show, not an opinion show,” with the first few episodes highlighting stories from the U.S.-Mexico border “that are not always covered.” The 16-episode series also will focus on media bias, socialism and veterans, she said.
“It’s classic storytelling,” Logan said in an interview with The Hill. “It’s a journalism show, not an opinion show. And that was the purpose of the title, to cut through some of that spin so that people could see it for what it is, and not how it might be cast.”
Logan said the format will be similar to “60 Minutes,” in terms of presentation and tone.
“This show is what brought me to Fox Nation,” she added. “Because it’s very much in the style of ’60 Minutes’ — going out there, reporting, having conversations. There are two-camera interviews, it’s the back-and-forth interviews that I love so much … I’m naturally and instinctively drawn to that.”
Good for her. In a world of advocacy journalism, opinion journalism and tweets from behind desks in New York and Washington instead of reports from afar, a few journalists still appear willing to go out and get the story from the ground in uncomfortable, even dangerous places.
Lara Logan is one of a shrinking breed.