Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lara Logan Calls Reporter a Liar for Committing Journalism

I've always liked Lara Logan. I always liked Christiane Amanpour and other women strong enough and brave enough to report from war zones and do, what I believed, real journalism.

For years, women on the news side of television were little more than talking heads, hired for their appearance and instructed on how to wear their hair, how to accessorize, and what to wear. Not real journalists, they read what they were given to read and if seen at an actual news event, it was usually as a celebrity presence, not as a reporter.

I have enjoyed watching women on television news age; their jaws becoming slightly less firm as did mine, their waistlines a little thicker, and their smile lines staying in place when they stopped smiling. A few years ago, women were fired when they were no longer Miss America beautiful; now they are allowed to be human, mostly.

When Michael Hastings wrote his article about General Stanley McChrystal in Rolling Stone that led to the General's firing and eventual retirement from the military altogether--reported yesterday--the backlash was not against McChrystal and his reported disrespect to his Commander in Chief. The backlash was not toward his staff and the frat boy atmosphere that encouraged such a wealth of material for Hastings to choose from. No. The backlash was against Hastings for having the temerity to write such an article. And the backlash was from the mainstream media who were universally appalled that a "reporter" would so abuse the honored privilege he had been given by writing so negatively about General McChrystal. The consensus was, "Rolling Stone? Who cares what they say. They're not 'real' journalists anyway." Fortunately (unfortunately?) the readers of Rolling Stone (including evidently the President), do care.

The most egregious example, to me, was an interview given by Lara Logan on CNN. The rising star of the Afghan war with her glowing reports conducted while embedded with the troops, Ms. Logan has, apparently, the gravitas to give the final word on the actions of Mr. Hastings. Not.

Watch Hastings appear on the program earlier:

Talking to the oh so neutral Howie Kurtz on "Reliable Sources," Logan claims that:
"Michael Hastings, if you believe him, says that there were no ground rules laid out. And, I mean, that just doesn't really make a lot of sense to me ... I mean, I know these people. They never let their guard down like that. To me, something doesn't add up here. I just -- I don't believe it. "

Using loaded language, she referred to Hastings' "game" when describing his earlier comments about his methods to build trust between himself and the subjects of his report. She denied that reporters write only positive articles to ensure continued access to their assigned "beats" saying,
"What I find is the most telling thing about what Michael Hastings said in your interview is that he talked about his manner as pretending to build an illusion of trust and, you know, he's laid out there what his game is. That is exactly the kind of damaging type of attitude that makes it difficult for reporters who are genuine about what they do, who don't -- I don't go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else. I mean, I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life."
What, the military didn't know Hastings was a reporter? Or are they so used to "reporters" who buy access by saying only nice, sanitized things about the conduct of the military?

Angered at Hastings' suggestion that reporters edit themselves in order to maintain access, Logan said: [emphasis added]
"I think that's insulting and arrogant, myself. I really do," Logan said, "because there are very good beat reporters who have been covering these wars for years, year after year. Michael Hastings appeared in Baghdad fairly late on the scene, and he was there for a significant period of time. He has his credentials, but he's not the only one. There are a lot of very good reporters out there. And to be fair to the military, if they believe that a piece is balanced, they will let you back. Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has."
Can she not see that she just contradicted herself? "...if they [the military] believe a piece is balanced, they will let you back." By whose standards? The military? What is balance? Is this the same military that  embeds journalists to make sure that they see what they want them to see and report what they want them to report? I remember watching images of Vietnam over the dinner table and know that it was those images that had a lot to do with the national mood that ultimately led to our leaving. Journalists in Vietnam were not "embedded" nor were they limited on what they could see, do, or say. As a result, we have a vivid, albeit ugly, history of our time in that country. And, we now have a generation of American's who have a real understanding--without having been there--of the real meaning of war, not the pretty, Disney version the Pentagon would have us see.

By the way. What branch of the military was Logan in? And this has to do with what, how?

Discussing the issue of "on-the-record" vs. "off-the-record," Taibi notes that although he works for Rolling Stone, he does not know Michael Hastings, but can sympathize for him after listening to Logan's interview because;
"...when some would-be "reputable" journalist who's just been severely ass-whipped by a relative no-name freelancer on an enormous story fights back by going on television and, without any evidence at all, accusing the guy who beat him of cheating. That's happened to me so often, I've come to expect it. If there's a lower form of life on the planet earth than a "reputable" journalist protecting his territory, I haven't seen it."
Commenting on Logan's remarks about the "understanding" between reporter and subject and trust that is built up so that--in this case--McChrystal knows he can talk freely knowing that anything negative will not be reported, a trust that she says Hastings broke, Taibi says:
"...the reason Lara Logan thinks this is because she's like pretty much every other "reputable" journalist in this country, in that she suffers from a profound confusion about who she's supposed to be working for. I know this from my years covering presidential campaigns, where the same dynamic applies. Hey, assholes: you do not work for the people you're covering!"

Somehow in this country, we have come to the conclusion that if we speak out against the war, we are against the troops. That if we show the horrors of war, we are anti-war. Clearly Lara Logan has become enamored of the military. Who wouldn't? Her rise to fame (and I'm sure, fortune) is directly tied to American's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is sad is that true support of the troops would be to bring them home, to fight the war they signed up for and then bring them home. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. We "won" Afghanistan in 2002. There are (according to the military) less than 50 Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan at this time. Even McChrystal does not believe in his much touted anti-insurgency policy and President Obama is fighting a sinking approval rating and believes somehow that a withdrawal from Afghanistan will make him appear weak. It is the Lara Logan's in the mainstream media who are responsible for our going to war, our continued presence there, and the nation's ignorance of the true agenda of the Republican Party.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

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