Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CBS shouldn't have withheld Lara Logan's story

Posted at 9:53 AM ET, 02/16/2011
The Washington Post
By Richard Cohen

Say what you will about New York's celebrated tabloids, they know news when they see it. This is why both the New York Daily News and the New York Post devoted their front pages to the sexual assault by a mob in Cairo of CBS correspondent Lara Logan. Say what you will about CBS, it either doesn't know what news is or felt that the privacy of an employee was more important than its obligation to inform the public. It has it backwards.

Logan was sexually assaulted Feb. 11. CBS did not report the incident until yesterday, which was Feb. 16. Meanwhile, Logan was returned to Washington where she was hospitalized. Her sexual assault was clearly a brutal event, although the exact nature of it remains unclear. Whatever the case, a mob estimated to number around 200 attacked her in Tahir Square, separated her from her crew and bodyguards and severely sexually assaulted her. Ultimately, a group of Egyptian woman and about 20 soldiers rescued her.

As I'm sure even Logan would admit, the sexually assault of woman by a mob in the middle of a public square is a story. It is particularly a story because the crowd in Tahir Square was almost invariably characterized as friendly and out for nothing but democracy. In fact, some of the television correspondents acted as if they were reporting from Times Square on New Year's Eve, stopping only at putting on a party hat. In those circumstances, a mass the sexual assault in what amount to the nighttime version of broad daylight is certainly worth reporting.

Most news organizations do not name rape victims. I disagree with this policy for a number of reasons that I have written about over the years, but even if I agreed, exceptions have to be made. The awful Logan incident has to be an exception. Had another woman, say a strolling tourist, been similarly victimized, the incident would have been reported -- and the name withheld. In Logan's case, unfortunately, there was no way to withhold the name. Still, her privacy was not as important as the story.

The New York Post reports that the mob that set upon Logan yelled "Jew, Jew." This is the New York Post, so a second source would be advisable. Still, the assault and its undertones of pogromist anti-Semitism (Logan is not Jewish) is very troubling and, at the very least, suggests that not everyone in Tahrir Square that night had democracy on their mind. I feel badly for Logan and wish her well. But she's a newswoman, and what happened to her in Tahir Square was news. CBS should not have withheld that story.

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