Why Was Lara Logan’s Photo Altered On Anderson Cooper 360?

The LA Times‘ Scott Collins noticed something odd about last night’s broadcast of Anderson Cooper 360. Namely, that the show inexplicably decided to blur the faces of Egyptian men surrounding Lara Logan, in a photo shot moments before she was sexually assaulted.

The photo was provided by CBS and made widely available to news organizations via the Associated Press. Many outlets used it to illustrate stories about Logan.

CNN, however, chose to blur the faces of the men in the background. The reason for the choice is unclear. It is possible that CNN worried about legal liability – despite the fact that the image was taken in a public place during a thronged demonstration of pressing international interest and had been distributed through a wire service. By partly obscuring the image, CNN tampered 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.

CNN didn’t return Collins’ calls for comment. We can’t even begin to imagine why CNN would unilaterally decide to alter Logan’s photo, after it had already been published around the world. Right now the decision just seems odd to us. But any time a news organization chooses to inexplicably self-censor itself is cause for concern.

Update – 02/17/11: Via AOL News comes this explanation from Anderson Cooper 360 spokesperson Shimrit Sheetrit – “The photo was being used on our air as we reported about the sexual assault. 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.”