“We talk about truths, the First Amendment, and our great responsibilities as journalists, but how often do we live up to them? And more importantly, how many of us try always to live up to them?”Lara Logan
On Monday, a new four-part docuseries presented by former “60 Minutes” journalist Lara Logan is now available to stream on FOX Nation.
The series, “Lara Logan Has No Agenda,” is a four part docuseries that consists of 16 investigative episodes focused on four crucial subjects facing our country domestically and abroad:
- The U.S. crisis at the border,
- Media bias,
- Socialism, and
I had the privilege and honor of speaking with Logan ahead of the series debut and even got a sneak preview into the first episode, “Cartel Nation,” where Logan begins her analysis of our border crisis by exploring the transformation of the two most powerful drug cartels in Mexico.
Andrew Rossow: Thank you so much for your time and the opportunity to speak with you. Let’s talk about your new show, “No Agenda.” What was the inspiration of it all coming together?
Lara Logan: Well, I was working with a production company in Montana. We were working on doing a series about the endless wars. And they actually had a history and relationship with Fox Nation. And when I did a podcast with Mike Ritland’s Mike Drop, that unexpectedly got a lot of attention. And Finley [Executive Vice President of Development, John] and Marc Pierce wanted to do something with me and they were trying to decide what it was. The two of them came up with this idea.
AR: Now with 16 episodes, this of course was methodically done. How did you decide on the shaping of each episode?
LL: We were back and forth about what the episodes would be about. The media was an obvious one and then I suggested the border because I had been working down there for much of the year, and I saw that there was a lot more work to be done and a lot more to be covered that was unreported and under-reported. But I tell you, this is not a commercial 90 minutes, it’s a real 90 minutes.
Millennials Are the Future. Education Starts Now
AR: I hate to say this but we (millennials) are the future and we have to be educated in a way so we are open-minded, which isn’t how it is now. What would you hope for someone like myself to take away from this? What do you want the average viewer to take away?
LL: I always try to transcend the politics with my work. If you look at the stories I do, there’s something very human about them because that is very much who I am. Those are the kind of stories you can’t fake. As a journalist, you can pick up a novel, a research paper, you can read through 400 news stories, but what you can’t manufacture is that human touch that is very much a part of all the work that I do.
For me, it’s about respect and having an open heart and an open mind. We throw a lot of words around like bumper stickers. We talk about truths, the First Amendment, and our great responsibilities as journalists, but how often do we live up to them?
And more importantly, how many of us try always to live up to them?
We’re striving all the time for people to learn something they don’t already know or see something they haven’t already seen. We’re not trying to pick and choose random things just because they are salacious or they are sensational; this is a serious attempt to go to the heart of the story.
How many stories have you seen about the journey that people make? The tragedies that they have lived through? The desperation about the journey? The struggle along the way? The terrible difficulty they’ve left behind?
We’ve seen many stories like that and they are very valid but what I wanted to know as a journalist is: “How do you solve this? What is this really about? What’s driving this?”
Empathy is the Key to a Great Leader
And for Logan, she aims to look at the potential solutions to these questions from all different perspectives.
“It’s easy to be critical of the government, for example, if you’ve never put yourself in the position of a leader,” she explained to me. “It’s easy to be critical of all kinds of people if you’ve never put yourself in their position.”
AR: How does politics affect the ways in which we communicate with one another?
LL: I feel like politics strangles conversation. In all of these stories, it has a place. I would never ask a young, defected soldier a policy question, because a 3-Star General was responsible for the policy and the political questions, so I reserve those questions for them. I believe in being fair and ethical.
You can’t go and try to talk a soldier into telling you something that is sensational. I of course had those conversations and built a deep understanding of the situation, but I held the policymakers and the generals to account. I only held the soldiers to account for what they were accountable for. I don’t believe in cheap shots, that’s consistent with me in my work and that’s what I want people to understand.
AR: So diving back into “No Agenda” and our crisis at the border, which you analyze in the first episode, Cartel Nation, what’s your overall takeaway?
LL: If you want to understand what’s happening at the border, it doesn’t come from watching the same story over and over again. For example, you go to El Paso and you see a lot about people drowning in the Rio Grande and dying in the mountains as they try to cross.
Has anyone stopped to think, why? Why are they crossing there where they can die? Who made that decision? Did someone else make that decision for them?
If you go to El Paso, think about the people poring over the border. If your objective is to give yourself up, why would you swim through a river, or walk through a dessert to do it, when you know that you could die? You could go to El Paso where the river is a trickle and step over it in half a second and cross the river where the border patrol is right there. Why wouldn’t you do that?
Those are the kind of questions that I ask. There are no parents alive that would make that trek. There is no parent on Earth who would choose to take their children through that river when they don’t swim.
Why would they take them across the river where they know people are drowning? And you might think: not everyone knows that it’s so easy to cross the river in El Paso.
Yet somehow we’re expected to believe that these people use their social media to coordinate caravans with 50 thousand other people to travel for weeks. So they’re sophisticated enough to do that, but not sophisticated enough to figure out which is the easiest place to cross? Those two things don’t make sense; they can’t both be true.
AR: What do you think is really happening here?
LL: The answer is that these people are not making the decisions; they are not in control. Well then who’s in control? I want to look at the whole context. I don’t just want to take one slice of it and tell that story 1500 ways. That’s never been my job as a reporter.
So when I went down there, what I wanted to know is who is really in control of the border. And what you then find out is that it’s not the Mexican government who is in control, it’s cartels that are in control of it. And depending on who you talk to, the cartels control our side of the border too. They get to move whatever they want move to wherever they want to move it.
AR: During your investigation and story, did anything surprise you?
LL: Yes. I stumbled upon something that I almost cannot believe: that the drug cartels in Mexico have completely and utterly transformed since the 70s, when they were initially sending marijuana north of Mexico.
The Opioid Epidemic
Now this is the part where Logan and I had some common experiences, as I am a criminal defense attorney in Ohio, where the majority of my clients are victims of the opioid epidemic and fentanyl overdoses.
AR: Can you elaborate on this “transformation?”
LL: Now, Mexican cartels control almost 100% of mass production worldwide. They control, depending on who you talk to, 85 to 90 percent of the global trade of all narcotics. How can you not hear that and be completely astonished?
People want to know this; they want to know who’s controlling the border and what is the truth about it. There’s not a parent in America that doesn’t want to know that the Mexican cartels are manufacturing synthetic opioids and that their child might take adderall they bought from someone laced with fentanyl.
Wouldn’t they want to know what differentiates synthetic opioids from the real ones? And how come there’s been no decline in opioid addiction in America?
AR: And that’s where someone like myself steps into the situation, at least from a legal standpoint. Out in Montgomery County, Ohio, I’m in the opioid capital of the U.S. My job often to get my clients out of jail and put them in a medical facility to get them off of the addiction to opioids.
LL: Well, you know what the cartels are doing? They’re lacing everything with literally a drop, not even a drop, of fentanyl to keep addiction rates high and create more addicts. They have adapted.
The moment they found out that the U.S. government was going to crack down on prescription opioids, they went into overdrive and mass produced synthetic opioids in super labs in Mexico. They have completely ramped up production of these drugs.
AR: So having a better understanding of your mindset and stance,let me ask you again (this time with context,) what can viewers expect from this new series as a whole?
LL: What people can expect from this show, then, is to learn something they didn’t know already know. Everything there is very consistent with what I’ve always done. What you see is what you get. I deliver the same quality with that human touch that comes from being the person that I am.
I never show up anywhere and demand anything; I’m always very conscious when I’m asking people to give of their time, knowledge, or experience. And I give as much of myself in return.
I think that what people will see here too is a more detailed look at the broader context. We have a very one-dimensional story about what the tragedy is of those coming across the border is. It’s something that for us begins from the moment they struggle to overcome U.S. law and then battle the evil policies of border patrol and the government.
The “Fake News” of Border Protection
“First of all, there are so many misconceptions about border patrol and customs and border protection,” Long pointed out. “Did you know that 90% of the border patrol agents are Hispanic and none of them believe that the border does not need to be secured? You get to hear from these guys in a way that you don’t hear about.”
We see a lot of bad leadership that is coming to light now. But anyway, it bothers me that people refer to the processing centers as concentration camps. If you’re going to make statements like that about the border, it has an impact on everybody. But fundamentally, is it true or is it not true? That’s what I want to find out.
AR: That’s where media bias comes in too. I mean, it’s part of everything we’ve been talking about but what do you think about it?
LL: As journalists, we have an opportunity to stand up for what journalism is supposed to be and I am stunned at the lack of willingness of journalists to do that.
I am still vilified for the Benghazi story. I had one out of three people and only two things he said were ever questioned. Nobody proved that they were not true by the way because it was all off-the-record, and they may not have been true but no one proved this and he disappeared.
And people still ask, I mean you would think I committed a crime. What about reporters who have been for 2-3 years reporting things that have turned out to be absolutely not true? This is why I feel so strongly about anonymity.
When we gave anonymity to people that was because if we didn’t, the police would come into their township, drag them out their bed, and burn them alive. That’s what you give anonymity for.
You don’t give it to former members of an administration with a political agenda. And then even after they are proven to be wrong, they continue to give them on that platform and still don’t hold themselves to account. I just don’t understand that.
I am able to help fight the same fight but in my own way, by following the facts and doing stories that expose things that are wrong. What people are gonna get from the show is the facts. If there is any opinion in there, you know it’s going to be distinctive and clearly outlined.
Fact vs. Opinion
You will know the distinction between fact and opinion. What I think about media bias is that you can cast blame as far and wide and keep looking to say it’s because of this and that, but as long as you keep doing that, you’re signing the death row for journalism.
There are many journalists from all walks of life and all kinds of publications who agree with this because we didn’t create the standard– the standard of independent verification, of clearly delineating fact from fiction, and of clearly holding people accountable for what they say. That’s the purpose of putting someone’s name on something.
If you’re from the former administration why would you not have to put your name on that? If you’re going to want to disparage someone else, why do you get to do that anonymously?
Shouldn’t you have to risk your career if that’s what you wanna do? I mean, shouldn’t we question the journalists who are so willing to allow that? Do you take everything a source tells them and put it out?
When you get people like the FBI saying something was a lone wolf attack, don’t you have to ask “What do you mean lone wolf?”
We live in the digital age, after all. Were they talking to other people online? Were they going onto online forums? Did they download any manuals that gave them a list of targets? What do you mean ‘lone wolf?’ Why do we not question these things? Why is questioning that a political statement? It’s not. It’s not a political statement.
What about the suffering of a young girl who is trafficked across the border who isn’t being brought to America for a better life?
What about the fact that the American dream is no more within her reach within the borders of the US than beyond?
What about their stories? Don’t they also have a right to tell their stories? Shouldn’t we hear their stories as well?
Shouldn’t we hear about the perspective of the border patrol agent who’s out there every day? The fact he rescues more people than he ever sees die?
Am I taking a political stance on behalf of border patrol? My job is not to take a political stand. Journalists aren’t supposed to take a stand; that’s not our job.
A Mother First and Foremost
But at the end of the day, Logan is a mother and that comes first above her career. Yet, even with her enormously busy schedule she still finds time to educate her children.
Now the mother of three children, Lara has undergone her fair share of challenges while her kids were at a very young age. The victim of a brutal sexual assault and a cancer survivor, Lara knows that with the age of technology and social media, her children are susceptible to the many headlines involving their mother and other pressing issues around the world.
When her son was at the young age of 6 or 7, he came to her with a horrified face saying, “Mom, mom, It says here that you almost died.” In that moment, she had to have the very hard conversation of being raped on the streets of Egypt while doing her job. Lara likes to speak to her children open and honestly.
For example, Lara shares a time when one of her children repeated an internet meme regarding Ebola. As a journalist who reported extensively on the dangerous and deadly Ebola outbreak, Lara did not take that lightly. She sat her children down and told them the many stories from the time she was on the frontlines at a treatment center in Liberia, reporting on the devastation. She told her children about a woman who she encountered at the treatment center who had her child taken away, then moments later was told that her husband passed away. Lara shared the cries from the woman who did not know what was going to happen to her or her child.
Having this conversation with her children is Lara’s way to educate and inform her children on the hardships of life, she prefers not to sugar coat anything, or forget that it is her career and life-experience that allows her to be the mother she is.
This piece was co-authored by Andrew Rossow and Andrew Albor of Grit Daily News.