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Nation

What CNN Didn't Want to Show in the Lara Logan Photo

Feb 17, 2011 – 3:30 PM
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Joseph Schuman

Joseph Schuman Senior Correspondent

The image is already infamous for the horrendous event that took place moments after a photographer captured it.

It shows CBS News correspondent Lara Logan with a jostling crowd of Egyptian men in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday night. CBS said it was taken just before she was attacked and sexually assaulted amid the uproar and jubilation that followed President Hosni Mubarak's decision to resign.

The faces of the people behind her seem to reflect a range of emotions, from anger and anxiety to joy and celebration. One smiling man in a hooded sweatshirt appears to be holding up a "V" sign for victory.

But the photo itself has now become a source of contention.
A Feb. 11, 2011 photo released by CBS, '60 Minutes' and shown on the CNN show Anderson Cooper 360 shows CBS reporter Lara Logan in Cairo's Tahrir Square surrounded by a group of men whose faces are obscured by blurring applied by CNN.
CNN
A Feb. 11 photo released by CBS' "60 Minutes" showing CBS reporter Lara Logan in Cairo's Tahrir Square was shown on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" with the faces of the men around her obscured by blurring applied by CNN.

On Wednesday night, as CNN anchor Anderson Cooper was interviewing writer Nir Rosen about his comments targeting Logan on Twitter, the network showed the photo with the faces behind Logan digitally obscured.

That prompted Los Angeles Times television writer Scott Collins to accuse CNN of tampering "with the journalistic record without explanation, leaving it to viewers to guess whether the network intended to protect or incriminate the figures in the background."

At CNN, the criticism came as a surprise.

The photo "was being used on our air as we reported about the sexual assault," Shimrit Sheetrit, a spokeswoman for "Anderson Cooper 360," told AOL News. "We made a network-wide editorial decision to blur the faces of those around Logan because we didn't know if those in the photograph were involved in the attack or not."

It's not unusual to obscure faces in video on television or online. At midday Thursday, during a CNN story on airport security, the faces of TSA officers were blurred in the same way as the faces from the CBS photo.

CBS News declined to comment on the photo or CNN's use of it beyond the caption noting the time and place that accompanied the picture when it was released Tuesday.

What is unusual is that CNN chose to obscure parts of a photo that already had been distributed to and used by media worldwide. And it did so -- at least Wednesday night -- without telling viewers why.
In this Feb. 11, 2011 photo released by CBS, '60 Minutes' correspondent Lara Logan is shown covering the reaction in in Cairo's Tahrir Square the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down.
CBS News / AP
This is the Feb. 11 Lara Logan photo as it was released by CBS on Tuesday.

"If you are going to withhold information or you're going to do something when it's obvious you're going to withhold information or obscure photos, it's good to offer an explanation of why you're doing that," said Tom Rosenstiel, author of "Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload."

It isn't clear whether other print, online or broadcast organizations have similarly shrouded the faces behind Logan, but CNN -- one of the few broadcasters with global distribution -- may be particularly sensitive to the consequences for the men, who may have played no role in the assault.

"These people could be imprisoned, beaten, killed," Rosenstiel noted. "It's not always clear what the role of these people is. They could be bystanders. They could be part of the mob. In a still photograph, it's impossible to know."

Considering how broadly the photo has been seen, any attempt to protect the men in it may have been futile. But was the change unethical?

"I can't see how you can fault somebody for being overly cautious about putting people in harm's way," Rosenstiel said.
Filed under: Nation, World, AOL Original, Arab World Unrest
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