A Vested Interest in Covering Wars

CBS' Lara Logan reports on overseas action and isn't shy about shooting from the lip
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Lara Logan, the chief foreign affairs correspondent at CBS News, has added to her well-earned reputation as a reporter by strapping on a Kevlar vest and dodging IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Granted, her blonde good looks and breathy, South African-accented delivery have received considerable attention. But her bravery and dedication to telling the stories from two long wars that many viewers would as soon tune out have squelched many a pejorative.

And Logan has to laugh at the suggestion from a CBS News colleague that she really has a lipstick holder built into her bulletproof vest. As she reveals, It's not lipstick; specifically, it's Juicy Tube, a lip-gloss line from French cosmetic giant Lancôme that comes in whimsically named shades/flavors including Fruity Pop, Raspberry Ice and Spring Fling.

"It's like cement," she explains. And it stays on in the relentlessly arid climate of the Middle East, where severely chapped lips are one of many hazards.

But there's more to this story than just a
custom-made lip balm pocket on a Kevlar vest that also happens to be emblazoned
with Logan's blood type.

In 2005, during the height of violence in
Iraq, Logan was doing a 60 Minutes report
on the airport road, a six-mile nightmare between downtown Baghdad and the
airport known as "the world's most dangerous road." The company that
manufactured Logan's custom-made vest shipped it to her in Baghdad. There was
only one problem: It was too big to wear.

"The company was mortified," says Logan.

As an act of contrition, they sent an executive
to Iraq to both grovel and measure Logan for a proper vest.

"He kept saying, what else would you like?
OK, and what else? I'd run out of things to ask for. So eventually I said to
him, well I always take this [Juicy Tube] with me. He said, Oh, no problem, I'll
make you [a pocket] right here.

"I know it sounds like Barbie goes to war," Logan concedes. "And there's a lot of pressure on me not to talk about these kinds of things. But I don't care. At this stage, after all the work I've done, that's really what you're saying? Come on--I'm not a pretender."

Logan has plenty of experience defending against such barbs, having been a war zone reporter through most of her career. She grew up in a large family (four sisters, two brothers) in apartheid South Africa. The injustice of the state-imposed system of racial segregation informed her path to journalism.

"I think every true journalist at heart wants to change the world," she says. "That's why they do it, because you have this fundamental faith in the goodness of who we are as a society. If we all work with that belief in mind, things can change. That was the lesson of South Africa. When the media brought the injustices to the world's attention, the world did something about it and it changed."

Two years ago, Logan's life and career hit a crossroads when she became pregnant. Last year, she married her baby's father, Joseph Burkett, a defense contractor whom she met in Iraq. They are now expecting their second child, a girl, in the spring. At the same time, CBS News President Sean McManus expanded Logan's role at the network. He gave her more visibility on a wider range of stories, including pieces for 60 Minutes, where she's been a correspondent since 2004.

And while motherhood has certainly changed Logan's perspective ("It turns you into a complete lunatic," she says), the war zone still beckons. She was in Afghanistan as recently as August. "Now you have those terrible thoughts like, is this going to be the last patrol I go on," she says.

One of those patrols was under cover of darkness through a canal of stinking sewage water. "And there I am, pregnant, in canal sewage water up to my neck for 5½ hours, belly-crawling through black, filthy mud."

Later, she adds, they found out that the area was daisy-chained with IEDs. "You have to think about it. It just becomes a much tougher burden to carry."

McManus calls Logan "one of the most courageous and insightful" reporters in the business. She is also extremely outspoken. And that has occasionally stirred up controversy, as when she questioned the administration's Afghanistan policy in the run-up to President Obama's recent decision to send additional troops; she did so during appearances in October on Charlie Rose as well as CBS News' Webcast Washington Unplugged.

McManus says he is comfortable with the way Logan has comported herself on the network and off. In fact, he says he wants more of Logan's perspective on the CBS Evening News and elsewhere. He plans, in January, to try to get her more airtime with anchor Katie Couric.

For her part, Logan sees nothing wrong with reporting in one venue and reacting in another. In fact, she's tired of the sniping from the tabloid media.

"Journalists have forever done the rounds of Sunday-morning talk shows where they're giving analysis and opinion based on their experience," she says. "I just think it's game-playing to turn around and say, oh, reporters shouldn't give their [informed] opinions. That's been a function of journalism forever."

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