When NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Richard Engel recently returned from Afghanistan, he told MSNBC's Morning Joe, "I honestly think it's probably time to start leaving the country." Engel added, "I really don't see how this is going to end in anything but tears."
Engel's comments caused Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz (10/12/09) to raise an eyebrow at a reporter stating an opinion: "That sounds awfully opinionated for a working reporter," wrote Kurtz.
But we had to wonder if what really attracted Kurtz's scrutiny was Engel's stating of an opinion, or the opinion itself?
And so we wondered if Kurtz would even have commented if a network news reporter had suggested that the U.S. needed to escalate its military efforts in Afghanistan. We needn't have wondered.
Lara Logan, who holds the same position at CBS News as Engel does at NBC–chief foreign affairs correspondent–may be a more vehement cheerleader for escalation than Engel is for withdrawal. In a recent interview with Bob Orr on CBS News' Political Hotsheet, Logan expressed a disturbing devotion to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and chief proponent of escalating the war there: "I don't understand why no one will listen to the man you put your faith in and said he is the guy who is going to do this for us…."
Since Logan too "sounds awfully opinionated for a working reporter," we wonder how it is she escaped Kurtz's scrutiny?
For us, it isn't so much that journalists have and express opinions–the public is better served when we know what reporters are thinking–but we are troubled when disapproval and despair over the lost standards of journalistic objectivity are trotted out only for reporters whose opinions are at odds with official views.
So we are glad to know of Logan's hero worship, even if it is at odds with the worthwhile journalistic ethic that says reporters should hold the feet of the powerful to the fire–not massage them.
Corrected version: The original version of this post gave Stanley McChrystal's first name incorrectly.