CBS’ Lara Logan goes to war
By John M. Higgins -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/29/2005 8:00:00 PM
The darkest moment of Lara Logan’s career had nothing to do with the usual downers—getting fired or passed over for a promotion. The CBS correspondent was forced to sit out the United States’ initial 2002 attack on Iraq for 2½ weeks in Jordan rather than report from Baghdad as she had hoped to do.
As the impending bombing of the Iraqi capital loomed, Logan had decided a day earlier that she was not sufficiently equipped to report for the duration of the attack and reluctantly joined a convoy of foreign journalists to safe haven.
“I had not prepared to do a war on my own,” says Logan. “No food, no supplies, no access to CBS drivers.” She needed just one day to gather the goods and get the right contacts. “It was the lowest point of my entire career, stuck on the border of Jordan while this war was going on.”
That’s characteristic of Logan’s career. For more than 15 years, she has bounced around hot spots in Africa and the Middle East as a producer and correspondent, first performing grisly reporting duties as a teenager.
Three years ago, she scored a plum gig as correspondent for 60 Minutes Wednesday, which lured the South African-born Logan away from Britain’s ITV with an assignment and a salary far richer than European networks typically offer.
TABLOID FODDER IN LONDON
The bad news is that she could be facing another, more traditional dark moment. Two weeks ago, CBS cancelled 60 Minutes Wednesday.
“It was a huge shock,” says Logan, who returned to New York from overseas last November. “It’s a show, something you’ve been part of for years. There are a lot of people who won’t be jobless, but these are the jobs we love.”
She rose to prominence covering the U.S. war in Afghanistan for England’s equivalent of the Today show. Her beauty made her sudden fodder for the British tabloids, which flayed her in ways that make the New York Post seem tame. British newspapers blasted her supposedly overnight arrival as based on her looks.
They ignored her years of hard-news background abroad. Logan started working as a journalist when she was 18, toiling for a newspaper in South Africa doing the weekend “body count,” visits of local morgues and hospitals. (Around 100 per weekend during those violent times, she recalls.)
After college, Logan spent several years working as a TV producer reporting stories from various African hotspots, from the townships to wars in Angola and Mozambique. She worked for Reuters Television and freelanced for ABC, CNN and CBS Radio.
“It’s so strange when people look at me as some piece of fluff that just landed on TV,” says Logan, 34. “All those years of work, that had nothing to do with it.”
She hit her stride with the wars in the Middle East. Covering Afghanistan and Iraq first for ITV, then for CBS, she embedded herself first with Northern Alliance warlords, then later with Navy SEALs. In 2003, with CBS, Logan was in a military convoy when the armored Humvee she was traveling in hit an anti-tank mine and blew the vehicle open.
“It went 12 feet in the air and 8 feet forward,” Logan says. She was immobilized, trapped under the tangle of a dozen soldiers and other passengers.
Her face and the inside of her mouth were cut, and Logan was a bit in shock. A CBS colleague, Jeff Newton, saw bleeding and her eyes locked wide open. “I heard him say, 'No, I think she’s dead.’ I thought, 'Oh my God, they’re going to leave me because they think I’m dead.’”
They didn’t, though two soldiers were badly injured. But because Newton’s camera was rolling before they hit the mine, Logan had another gripping story for CBS’ The Early Show.
Logan didn’t see the footage until she was in New York months later. “I felt sick. You start out and think you’re invincible. But the older you get, the more friends you lose, you realize that’s not true.”
Jeff Fager, the 60 Minutes executive producer, praises Logan. “She will go into any war zone, no matter how dangerous—and she has been in many of the most dangerous—without any hesitation. And she always comes out with a story.”
Naturally, when the Iraq War broke out, Logan was the first U.S. correspondent to leave Jordan and get into Baghdad.
CBS is still sorting out what to do with the staff of 60 Minutes Wednesday. Logan says she’s being assured she’ll have a place. Her contract runs out in August.
She doesn’t know what she wants to do next. But she doesn’t want to be “on the sofa” as a news anchor. “I wanted to be a correspondent because I wanted to control my own stories,” Logan says. “There’s nothing in the world like being on a big running story.”
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