Why Was Logan There? Because It Is Her Job

February 17, 2011

In the wake of the horrible attack on veteran war reporter and CBS News correspondent Lara Logan, a disturbing round of ‘blame the victim’ chatter has buzzed around the media, from Twitter to blogs to cable news. Some have asked directly why in the world was Logan there? Do women have any place amid such chaos? And, the next question seems to be, didn’t she know this could happen?

I do not speak for Ms. Logan or any other reporter who has worked in conflict zones or amid scenes of great upheaval. But I will take the liberty of answering the basic question of why Logan was there in the first place.

Because it is her job. Because she is good at it. And because it is what she does.

War reporters are often seen as a wild bunch of thrill-seekers who wade into danger zones simply for the sake of the adrenalin high the settings inevitably provide. But this one-dimensional explanation leaves out the core of the story, which is that reporters go to these places because they feel the tug of responsibility. The responsibility to tell stories in parts of the world that most of their readers will never see or know, despite the fact that their countries play a leading role in the imaginations of the men and women in countries like Egypt, and Afghanistan and Iraq.

Logan is a veteran of wars around the world. She has never shied away from reporting the stories she found. And she is good at what she does. That is all that should matter to those who recount the horrid, lurid story of her attack. The rest says far more about who we are as an American public than who she is as an accomplished journalist whose work led her to danger she escaped only with the help of other women, Egyptian women, and members of the Egyptian military.

It is possible I take the media attacks on Logan personally because, though we have never met, we share friends and colleagues in Afghanistan, where, since 2005, I have reported on the women whose strength and ingenuity saved their families during the Taliban years and the businesswomen who are boldy rebuilding their country today. In December I traveled to Afghanistan while nearly seven months pregnant to report on efforts to fight the scourge of maternal mortality in the country, one of the deadliest places in the world to be an expectant mother. My family and I told few people of the trip because we knew they would inevitably question the decision to go, despite the fact that I had done all possible to limit the risks. For me, it was about giving voice to those who would not otherwise have one and about telling stories I believe matter deeply. And it was about the sense of service and responsibility that calls you to journalism in the first place.

For every reporter, man or woman, the decision to travel to a conflict region is a deeply personal one, reflecting considered judgment and often the input of loved ones, as was the case with Logan. She made the decision to return to Egypt because the story mattered and because it is the work she does best. What happened afterward was a tragedy. And one for which Logan should never be blamed.