GOOD Portraits: Bombshell In Baghdad

GOOD Portraits: Bombshell In Baghdad
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By: Siobhan O'Connor

Photos By: Livia Corona

It's hard to look away when Lara Logan is in front of the camera. And it's not because of her blond mane or eye-catching good looks--in today's tepid TV news world, female correspondents are expected to look like models. It's something else that keeps you transfixed--that unrelenting stare as she delivers exclusives from inside a war zone, the gaze that tells viewers that she's been there and knows what she's talking about. Because she has, and she does.

Consider her night-vision dispatch from an Afghani minefield or her on-camera infiltration of a Taliban stronghold, and you begin to understand how Logan landed the job of chief foreign correspondent for CBS almost two years ago, at age 34. Though some detractors publicly questioned her quick rise to the top of one of the Big Three networks, Logan has quite the resume. She has been covering conflict for 17 years now--she began reporting as a teenager in her native South Africa. And in her dispatches from Iraq, where she's been covering the war, it's clear she's earned her stripes.

Her career began during the heady final days of apartheid, working for the South African newspapers The Daily News and the Sunday Tribune. "You had this sense all the time," she says, "that just beyond your reach there was the truth. The government protected us from that very, very heavily. ... I believed enough that the world should know what was happening [and] that if people knew what was really happening in South Africa, that would have to make it change. And I think, in the end, that is what happened."

Now, Logan is on a brief trip back to New York from overseas so she can accept an Emmy for "Ramadi: On the Front Line," a heart-racing piece she did for the CBS Evening News that opens with a breathless Logan in full fatigues and helmet, running toward a shaky handheld camera as gunfire thunders all around her. It's like a scene out of Full Metal Jacket, with the addition of the gorgeous and utterly composed Logan.

"It is so much worse than you can imagine," she says of Iraq, leaning forward. "Do you know what a quadruple amputee looks like? Go to a burn-victim unit, go to any hospital in Baghdad and tell me it's getting better." Her intensity belies the coolheadedness expected of TV reporters. This frankness about the war helps set her apart from some of her colleagues, but it has also gotten her into trouble on more than one occasion.

Last year, when CBS refused to run a piece she had done about escalating violence in Iraq, citing overly graphic footage, Logan responded by privately emailing her friends and family, pleading with them to watch the piece online and write to CBS--that the story was "too important to ignore." Her email was leaked to the press, and Logan found herself at the center of an internet-based onslaught of criticism for her "lack of objectivity." (Including a false accusation that some of the footage came from al-Qaeda sources.)

But she's accustomed to facing criticism. "Just the other night, I was out to dinner and someone said to me, 'You look like you wouldn't last a day in Iraq,'" she says, later adding, "The most resistance I have faced [in my work] has come from male colleagues who did not take me seriously or who did not trust my judgment because of my appearance."

Ever humble about her work, she's understandably less humble about what she's overcome. "I would say my single greatest achievement is being able to say screw you to all the people who said that a woman like me couldn't make it in this business," she says, dead serious, looking me right in the eye.

Watch GOOD's interview with Lara Logan here.

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