Lara Logan, former correspondent for “60 Minutes,” caused a stir last week when, on a podcast called “Mike Drop,” she said that too many in the media have become “political activists.” Here, she explains to The Post how one-sided reporting has undermined the credibility of the press.
I was a working journalist before I could legally drink. On Saturday nights in Durban, South Africa, when most kids in high school were partying with friends, my last job was to hand deliver first-edition copies of the Sunday newspaper where I worked to the police station, the fire station, the hospital and the morgue.
It was a violent time in South Africa. The people had risen up against the injustice of Apartheid to fight for freedom and the region where I grew up was one of the bloodiest. So I persuaded the guys on night shift at the morgue to break the rules and tell me how many dead bodies they had received. I asked so many questions, they gave in and let me count the bodies myself. It mattered because no one knew how many people were dying every night in the political violence. The police had a habit of clearing the dead from the streets so the government could hide the truth.
But on that one night, every week, in that one place, I knew the truth. And no one could take it from me because I learned it first hand.
I do my job today, some 30 years later, the same way I did it then: with an open mind, an open heart and a million questions. There is nothing more human than opinions and bias. To say we have none is dishonest. But what we do have as professional journalists is a simple standard to get us past that: two first-hand sources — question everything and independently verify. I didn’t invent this — I inherited it from people like Edward R. Murrow and I will keep passing it on.
Journalists are not activists. We may share the passion for a particular cause, but our job is to follow the facts wherever they may lead. We can’t ignore something that reflects badly on a noble cause, as an activist might. We have to care about the means as much as the end because our duty is to search for the whole truth.
Nor are we lawyers in a court of law, cherry-picking facts to prove our case. Fortunately, there is only one truth. How we feel about it, how we perceive it, those things are subjective but the truth itself is not.
Above all, we are not propagandists or political operatives. That is not our job.