Wednesday, February 16, 2011

MEDIA WAKEUP CALL: THE LARA LOGAN STORY

While I would like to think of what is happening in media as “growing pains,” it seems some of it is just plain foolishness. If you scroll down a bit you’ll see a piece I posted on Feb. 3 called “Are They Journalists or Warriors?” At that time it had been reported that Anderson Cooper was attacked in Egypt. My take on the whole thing was that it is insane to keep sending journalists into areas where physical danger is not just possible, but imminent. Since I wrote that just a couple of weeks ago, one Egyptian journalist was killed in the street riots, several others were injured and two Fox journalists were badly beaten. And now comes word that CBS reporter Lara Logan was brutally raped by at least 20 Egyptian men.

As the Middle East becomes increasingly violent in its attempts to redefine itself, why didn’t “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeffrey Fager step back and consider the big picture before he sent beautiful blonde Logan to Egypt? The term “beautiful blonde” is used here to emphasize how Logan’s persona was bound to be a target in a land where women are routinely abused and disrespected. It is widely known that Egypt is unwelcoming to the press, especially those who come in from the West. It is also widely known that rape is common in Egypt. Women routinely report being groped, verbally and physically harassed on the streets. Anecdotal information informs us that rape is rampant in Egypt, that even police are often the perpetrators So, let’s do the math: Logan is female, a journalist and American. Some might say that Fager should be held accountable for what happened to her. He probably will not be. After all, he was just recently elevated to the newly created post of Chairman of CBS News.

In published reports, Egypt’s Interior Ministry reports 20,000 rapes occur annually in Egypt. The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights counters that, suggesting that if that is what the Ministry reports, we should probably multiply it by 10. This is lion’s den that Fager found acceptable to send Logan into.

Here in cushy America, we are not going to affect any change in Egypt’s misogynistic culture. That’s not the point. But perhaps we need to take a hard look at our own media culture, and decide if every story is going to be covered in the same manner. Do we send all professional journalists into a battle zone, or do we step back and consider the culture we are covering? I doubt we would send a black reporter to do an expose on the current state of the Ku Klux Klan. Lest we forget, Jewish reporter Daniel Pearl (right) was beheaded by Al-Queda in 2002. And if we do continue to send reporters into areas where they will be physically abused or worse, are they not being victimized by the corporate media entities for which they work? Corporate America is still a boy’s club. Everybody knows that. So, if a female reporter refuses an assignment to cover a story that may result in something like Logan’s experience, will she be labeled as “the girl who couldn’t handle the job?”

Bottom line: Media is now fully global and consumers expect 24/7 coverage of everything. In their efforts to accommodate the new world, media organizations need to find a balance between their own worship at the alter of the free enterprise system, and the humanity required to protect their reporters. A sea change is required right now so that what happened to Daniel Pearl and what happened to Lara Logan can never happen again.

2 comments:

Lagniappe said...

Paul, you've made me think, again.

The generation of women just before me fought very hard for the right to be given these kinds of assignments. They can make a career, and were exclusively there for men for a long time.

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