Lara Logan: Wake-up Call for News Bosses

Why should TV reporters — from Philly to Egypt — put themselves in danger for us?

The attack on CBS correspondent Lara Logan on the streets of Cairo is heartbreaking and sickening. I know everyone joins in praying and hoping for her to be healed both physically and emotionally so she can put this horror behind her. According to a statement from CBS, Logan, their chief foreign correspondent, was the victim of a “brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating” by “a mob of more than 200 men whipped into a frenzy” last Friday, the day Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down.

[SIGNUP]Of all the thoughts and emotions that swarmed me as I read about what had to be a terrifying ordeal for the 39-year-old woman, my first reaction was why are there no reports of an investigation or any arrests? She was reportedly saved by 20 Egyptian soldiers. Did they not think to take any of the men into custody?

There is a picture of Lara Logan in the crowd just before the attack, and you can see several men surrounding her. The investigation can start by rounding them up and questioning them about the attack.

President Obama reportedly called Logan this morning to wish her well. She is out of the hospital and resting at her suburban Washington home with her husband, her one-year-old son and other family members. I hope the president is also calling Egypt and demanding justice for Lara Logan.

I have set up a Facebook page, “Justice for Lara Logan” to pressure our president and state department to insist that the new Egyptian authority take action. It would be a horrible message to the world if a highly publicized mass sexual assault is allowed to happen with no investigation.

My initial angry reaction and call to action was quickly followed by lament about the state of television journalism. I hope the Lara Logan story serves as an ugly wake-up call to both network news bosses and local news managers.

Increasingly, TV reporters are pressured to put themselves in the thick of dangerous situations because it’s “good TV.” The result is television news morphing into a reality show with anchors and reporters as the central characters; they reluctantly but necessarily become the story. The result — “good TV” — overshadows “good journalism.”

Recently CNN’s Anderson Cooper was punched while wading through the protests on the streets of Egypt. Immediately his producer tweeted the incident to the world and CNN promoted it all day. The message was clear: When TV news people put themselves in danger, it helps the ratings and their careers.

But the Lara Logan incident is so horrifying, the networks must at least review their policies on the way they cover potentially violent news events. If they don’t, then they must be held responsible for future incidents.

You would think that they would know better by now. In 2003 NBC anchor and reporter David Bloom died from a blood clot that formed while riding in a tank in the assault on Baghdad during the Iraq war. Three years later, ABC anchor Bob Woodruff suffered a brain injury when a roadside bomb went off while he was taping a report in Iraq.

It is a dangerous world, and it is important that it’s covered by brave and talented journalists, but no reasonable person would say that our thirst for information is worth what happened to David Bloom, Bob Woodruff or Lara Logan.

And local news in Philadelphia and across the country should also take notice. Is it really necessary to put a reporter out live in a high-crime area hours after the news event happened just to have a “live presence”? Watch the local stations over the next month and you will see it several times. Young men and women holding cameras and microphones forced to stand isolated and unprotected in the dark to report on a crime that happened hours ago. All for “good TV.”

As Lara Logan recovers, let this event finally shock us into saying enough — don’t force anyone else to put themselves in danger for us. Because if we say enough maybe finally the news executives, both at the network and here in Philly, will get the message.

LARRY MENDTE writes for The Philly Post every Thursday. See his previous columns here. To watch his video commentaries, go to