Wed, 16 February 2011 irresponsible journalism

I’m sure most of you have heard that CBS reporter Lara Logan was beaten and sexually assaulted while reporting in Egypt. She is back in America and recovering in hospital. I hope her return to full health is swift.

The original CBS report about the crime is short and concise, and absolutely proper for a terrible ordeal suffered by one of its journalists.

Today I discovered, via a fantastic summary on author Jim Hines’s blog post, that the LA Weekly journalist Simone Wilson posted a shoddy article about the attack.

Not only does Wilson have the statement “brutally and repeatedly raped” in bold, but she consistently places emphasis on Logan’s attractiveness, and shockingly, mentions past stories about Logan’s sex life in the piece. It’s astounding that a woman could put together such an insensitive report on a terrible ordeal by a fellow colleague. It points to how deeply embedded it is in our society to criticise women (subtly or explicitly) when they suffer an attack for working in an arena considered unconventional.

There’s been an update to the post, in which Wilson at least states implicitly that Logan was not at fault. However, she quite clearly does not understand the wrong-headed tone of her original article.

Well, thank goodness Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon.com understands. Her piece ‘What not to say about Lara Logan‘ is a fantastic summary of what Wilson did wrong. Worse, Wilson was not the only person who inappropriately shifted the blame to Logan for her attack (and some did it more far more offensively).

Williams’s last paragraph is well worth highlighting:

Here’s what you do say when something like this happens. Like countless women around the world, Lara Logan was attacked in the line of duty. She was assaulted doing her job. It was a crime of unspeakable violence. And your opinion of how she does that job, the religion her assailants share with a few million other people, or the color of her hair has nothing to do with it.

I’ve done my best to spread the word about this piece. I’m glad that people are angry: we should be.

One of the aspects of the attack that offered me a sliver of hope was that it was a group of women, and Egyptian soldiers, who rescued Logan from her attackers. Often women are subtly condemned in reports like this about how they did nothing or looked away.

Those women risked to save Logan (the soldiers had training and weapons). That is a very inspiring message.

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