Back From War, Into Tabloid Territory

CBS correspondent Lara Logan, who's newly stationed in Washington, says she's "looking forward to being a mom."
CBS correspondent Lara Logan, who's newly stationed in Washington, says she's "looking forward to being a mom." (By Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

After four years of living in Baghdad, war was taking its toll on Lara Logan.

As CBS's chief foreign affairs correspondent, she regularly risked her life by accompanying American forces in combat. But there were more personal strains as well: Her mother had died after a lengthy coma, she and her husband had long ago agreed to a separation, and, last November, she broke off an intense relationship with another journalist in Baghdad. Soon afterward, Logan started dating Joseph Burkett, a federal contractor stationed in Iraq who was separated from his wife back in Texas.

Now, having just moved to Washington with an expanded portfolio for the network, Logan finds her romantic life reduced to tabloid fodder. And there is a new complication: She recently discovered that she is pregnant.

"Nobody likes to read about themselves like that, especially the way it's been sensationalized," Logan says of the coverage that spread to the front page of the New York Post, which called her a "sexy CBS siren" and "in-bedded reporter." "I hated it. But I'm just going to rise above it and keep going." The baby is due in January, she says, and she is "looking forward to being a mom."

Logan, 37, says she and Burkett plan to get married eventually. Her divorce is slated to become final in two weeks, and Burkett's divorce trial is likely to end next month. But the case has turned decidedly messy, with Burkett's estranged wife Kimberly, the mother of their 3-year-old daughter, charging that Logan broke up her marriage.

Much of the media interest is fueled by the South African native's rapid rise to stardom, which has brought her both celebrity status and a string of journalistic prizes, including an Emmy Award, Overseas Press Club Award and, last week, an Edward R. Murrow Award. While some may accuse her of tawdry conduct, what happened to Logan is an all-too-familiar tale of someone consumed by a career and needing a partner who understands the peculiar pressures involved.

"I just surrendered myself completely" to the Iraq story, Logan says. "If you give yourself 100 percent to the people around you, it's very hard to have anything left. Being away for long periods, when you come home, you can't explain what it is you've been doing to someone who's never been through it."

CBS News President Sean McManus calls Logan a "fearless" reporter with "a dynamic quality that just jumps off the screen." He says he transferred her to Washington to get her on the air more often and that "depending on her situation with her child, I'd anticipate she'd be covering the war in Iraq again.

" . . . All the distractions happening now will at some point be behind her and behind CBS News and she will succeed based on the quality of her work," McManus says.

Logan married Jason Siemon, a former professional basketball player in Europe who now works as an energy lobbyist in Chicago, in 1998. Soon after that, her career began to take off.

She had spent years as a freelancer for CBS, NBC, CNN and British television, landing a job as a CBS correspondent and "60 Minutes II" contributor only after talking her way into Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks. Not long afterward, she was in a Humvee with members of the 10th Mountain Division on the Afghan-Pakistani border when the vehicle was struck by an antitank missile, causing a fall that tore the skin inside Logan's mouth and bruised her face. When U.S. forces led the Iraq invasion in 2003, CBS withdrew all its correspondents, but Logan drove back in 10 days later.

"I'm not some Hollywood star," Logan says in her first interview on the subject. "It's not about a career for me. It's who I am. I do this because I believe in it."

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