Recently CBS chief foreign correspondent and 60 Minutes host Lara Logan uttered the most profound and significant words heard from a reporter in recent memory. Addressing the Chicago Better Government Association, she reminded wayward professional journalism of its forgotten essence.
Presenting her research on the actual state of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Logan said:
So why did that story matter and why did we chose to do that particular story? If al-Qaeda was truly what drew us to Afghanistan after 9-11, we felt it was a fair and legitimate question to be asking of American leaders what the state of al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. And you would have heard leaders, you would have heard bandied around the number fifty… only fifty al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan. The impression we are given is that they’re one drone strike away from obliteration. And that’s just simply not true. They know it is not true. What we had to do was set about investigating what was the truth and we had to be very careful about that because there is a distinction between investigating something to find out what the real situation is and trying to prove something that you believe is true. Those are two very different things and the second is a very dangerous thing. It is the enemy of great journalism. It is a trap that is very easy to fall into.
Giving a breathtaking demonstration of the self-effacement required by journalism as she had just re-defined it, Lara looked straight at the thousand guests present and the millions she knew would see the recording. Without flinching or considering the cost, she answered the eternal question:
Quid est veritas? What is the truth?