Sunday, June 27, 2010

This is disappointing

As I wrote about Lara Logan a few years ago:
I worked with Lara Logan personally in Afghanistan and, to a person, every military member she came into contact with said the stories she aired about her time with them were dead-on honest... Logan was nearly killed running the Afghanistan/Pakistan border with SpecOps types. Logan is the real deal.
But, in this video, Logan really lets me down. She argues there must have been ground rules laid down in Michael Hasting's dealings with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, because, well, she just knows there must have been. While I never worked in role of military "publicist" (as Duncan Boothby seems to have styled himself) I have worked with a lot of reporters working on military stories and the only ground rules I've ever seen set were based on security concerns--don't discuss base layout, rules of engagement, etc.

Further in the interview there's this little exchange.
KURTZ: When you're out with the troops and you're living together, sleeping together, is there an unspoken agreement--

LOGAN: Absolutely.

KURTZ: that you're not going to embarrass them--


KURTZ: by reporting insults and banter?


KURTZ: Tell me about that.

LOGAN: Yes. Absolutely. There is an element of trust.
Sorry, but this wasn't a couple of grunts bitching in a chow hall, this was the general leading the fight in Afghanistan--and his staff--insulting the civilian leadership of the nation. That's unacceptable and, no matter what story Hastings intended to capture while hanging with the staff, ignoring those comments would have been tantamount to committing a lie by omission.

Logan goes on to say, "To be fair to the military, if they believe a piece is balanced, they will invite you back." She's not actually being fair to the military with this statement, because military public affairs guys (like I used to be) can't pick and choose which reporters to deal with based on which ones they feel are fair and which they feel are unfair. In fact, the military's goal of media facilitation even accepts that incorrect stories will be published. Army Field Manual 46-1 (pdf):
Commanders at every level should be interested in what is being said about their efforts. Those at the tactical level will often learn from the reporters integrated with their units or from news summaries several days old. They don’t have to like or agree with what is being reported, but they do have to understand what is being reported. The public obtains its information about the operation from the news media, and those reports help to shape public perceptions and opinion about the command’s effectiveness. With an effective media facilitation program, the command is aware of differences between what it knows to be true and what the news media are reporting.
Also, she's suggesting that Hastings is being "unfair" by reporting the words of McChrystal and his staff. I don't see it.

As much as I've respected Logan's reporting over the years, it seems to me she's actually reinforcing Michael Hasting's argument that another reporter wouldn't have reported McChrystal's words out of fear of losing access. If anything, she's making an excellent argument for sending fewer military beat reporters to combat zones.

Update: More here, from Michael Calderone.
In addition to anonymous officials making allegations against Hastings, criticism has come from another reporter who’s spent considerable time on the front lines: CBS chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan. Logan, yesterday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” suggested—based on her assumptions, not with any actual evidence—that Hastings must have acted unethically in publishing some caustic quotes from McChrystal and his aides aimed at the civilian leadership, including President Obama.

“It's hard to know—Michael Hastings, if you believe him, says that there were no ground rules laid out,” Logan said. "And, I mean, that just doesn't really make a lot of sense to me, because if you look at the people around General McChrystal, if you look at his history, he was the Joint Special Operations commander. He has a history of not interacting with the media at all. “ (The Economist reported otherwise on Friday, noting that McChrystal regularly spoke to the press and did so with notable candor).
Read the whole thing.

Update: Logan gets Taibbi'd.
...when I read this diatribe from Logan, I felt like I'd known Hastings my whole life. Because brother, I have been there, when some would-be "reputable" journalist who's just been severely ass-whipped by a relative no-name freelancer on an enormous story fights back by going on television and, without any evidence at all, accusing the guy who beat him of cheating. That's happened to me so often, I've come to expect it. If there's a lower form of life on the planet earth than a "reputable" journalist protecting his territory, I haven't seen it.
Update: Glenn Greenwald gets ticked.
Logan sounds like the most devoted member of McChrystal's P.R. staff or even his family: so furious is she that Hastings would publish an article that reflected negatively on this Fine, Great Man (whom she supposedly covers) -- so devoted is she to the interests of this military official -- that, at one point, she drops the neutral journalist mask and shows her Bill Kristol face, and actually spat: "Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has."
Is it just me, or does that line remind anyone else of Heinlein's Starship Troopers take on civilians as people with their shirttails out and nothing on their minds?


Anonymous daphne said...

"...but this wasn't a couple of grunts bitching in a chow hall, this was the general leading the fight in Afghanistan--and his staff--insulting the civilian leadership of the nation."

not to mention these irresponsible statements were made in the context of an INTERVIEW. You'd think McChrystal would have distinguished between that and an informal gab session.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Well, part of it was interviews, but the rest was just goofing off in front of a reporter. Still ridiculous.

6:27 PM  
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