Lara Logan shares stories ‘From Apartheid to Afghanistan’
Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 9, 2012 15:04
CBS News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Lara Logan has been on the ground of Afghanistan, Egypt and South Africa to cover stories, and on Tuesday night, she took to the stage of the Marshall Student Center Ballroom to share her experiences.
Logan spoke to an estimated crowd of 340 as part of the University Lecture Series (ULS) in a lecture titled “From Apartheid to Afghanistan: Reporting from the Front Lines.”
Before she took to the stage, a highlight reel played interviews she’d done for “60 Minutes” and other news shows. Logan said two moments stuck out — one with FBI agent Ali Soufan about ground zero and one with singer Michael Bublé in San Jose, because they were filmed back-to-back.
“It had about 13 hours of interviews over two days with a gazillion al-Qaida and Arabic names thrown in there, and lots of nuance and it was very, very intense,” she said. “So when I jumped on the plane and rushed down to see a Michael Bublé concert in San Jose, it was sort of surreal. I remember when Michael walked up to me and said … ‘I hope you’re going to do a good interview.’ I said, ‘Listen, the last person I interviewed was a FBI agent and I made that f----- cry.’”
Whether she finds herself following a celebrity such as Bublé or a serious news story such as the Afghanistan war, Logan said what draws people to her is her willingness to be present at the scene.
“One of the things I think people are really interested in about my work is about what it’s like to be there — what it’s like to be on the ground,” she said.
Logan gained acclaim for her field coverage of the Afghanistan war, occasionally putting herself in life-or-death situations. While driving with soldiers in a Humvee on the Afghan-Pakistani border, the vehicle hit a mine and blew up, briefly knocking her unconscious.
“I heard something calling my name and I didn’t think about responding. I was only observing in a way,” Logan said. “Then I heard someone say, ‘Is she alright?’ and my producer and cameraman said, ‘No, I think she’s dead.’ Then I thought, ‘I better say something.’”
Though Logan can no longer stay embedded in Afghanistan, she said she still keeps in touch with citizens to know the country’s current climate while traveling to cover other stories.
“That’s my way of trying to make up for the fact that I don’t live on the ground in Afghanistan right now, that I have to travel and do a lot of different things,” she said. “That I don’t get to do what I love the most, which is to be in a place and inhale it.”
Logan started her career in journalism as a reporter in her birthplace of Durban, South Africa, covering the struggle against apartheid as it developed. She said her time in South Africa proved instructive in how she viewed journalism from then on.
“What I learned of human nature in South Africa has never failed me,” Logan said. “It really hasn’t. We were part of, in the struggle against apartheid, something great as journalists. We were part of the struggle for justice and freedom and for democracy.”
In February 2011, Logan was sexually assaulted by a mob in Tahrir Square while covering the Egyptian revolution in a highly publicized case. The attack was only briefly mentioned in the lecture, when an audience member asked her why she would not call herself a voice for women’s issues after her assault.
Logan said she did not want to limit herself to women’s issues and was instead concerned with all injustices.
“Obviously, I care about people who are victims of sexual violence and who are raped and sexually assaulted the way I was,” she said. “But I don’t think that’s what I have to become, that’s what I have to be labeled as.”
Overall, Logan said her drive to be a journalist was to correct injustice — going even further back in her time in South Africa to pinpoint a black man being put behind her in line in a candy store as where her idea of wrong came from.
“My heart ached for him, and I knew it was wrong,” she said. “I couldn’t understand it, I didn’t really understand it, but I knew it was wrong, but I was driven always to understand that feeling.”