- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 23, 2005

Political polls, town hall meetings, dramatic interviews: The Iraqi elections will get intense American-style coverage, even as security concerns mount for U.S. broadcasters.

Beginning today, big-name anchormen will report live from Baghdad and beyond — a full six days before the elections, scheduled for Sunday.

“We want to tell the story of democracy in action,” said John Stack, vice president of news gathering for the Fox News Channel.

The network will send Shepard Smith to lead its team, with another four correspondents reporting from Baghdad and Tikrit.

“We have had an ongoing presence in Iraq to tell the daily story, but January 30 is an important date in the history of a country pursuing its freedom,” Mr. Stack said, noting that crews will visit polling places and other public spots in the days leading up to the election, with reports at least twice an hour on election day.

“There’s a security situation here. We’ll do our best; we’re hoping for a peaceful day, [but] there’s always a fear of violence,” Mr. Stack said. “But we’ll tell the good with the bad.”

In one of his last hurrahs before stepping down March 9 as “CBS Evening News” anchorman, Dan Rather will head to what CBS described as the “triangle of death” — a spot about 30 miles south of Baghdad — to “patrol” with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“The Marines will show Rather how they are preparing for the election in an area known for sheltering a large number of insurgents,” CBS said.

Mr. Rather, 70, will be the news anchorman from various Iraqi locations and also appear on “60 Minutes Wednesday” before returning to his usual chair in Manhattan on Feb. 1.

ABC News anchorman Peter Jennings also will report from Iraq beginning today. The network plans to interview Iraqi politicians and U.S. officials, and post online voting results as they become available on election day.

ABC has polled 1,300 Iraqis on their political persuasions and mobilized Iraqi reporters in 37 towns for additional input, in a joint project with Time magazine and the British Broadcasting Corp.

In addition, “Nightline” will broadcast “Why Stay?” a 90-minute town-hall meeting from the United States with a live link to correspondents in Iraq, centered on the U.S. presence in Iraq.

CNN considers the Iraqi elections a “historic event,” a spokeswoman said, and plans coverage from polling sites in Iraq, as well as locations in Syria, Jordan and even Dearborn, Mich. — an urban stronghold of Iraqi-Americans.

On Thursday, anchorman Anderson Cooper arrives in Baghdad for special election coverage, joined by correspondents Christiane Amanpour, Nic Robertson and Jane Arraf.

NBC News plans to send anchorman Brian Williams to cover the Iraqi elections, though details were not made public.

One Iraqi news organization also is gearing up for the big day with a little help from its government and the expertise of an American company.

The Iraqi Media Network (IMN) — which includes 24-hour Al Iraqiya TV and a radio station — has been upgraded to broadcast in Baghdad and 30 other locations. Thanks to new printing equipment, the network’s nationally distributed newspaper Al Sabah is now printing 350,000 daily copies — up from 60,000 last year.

The project was funded “solely by the Iraqi government,” said Howard Lance of Harris Corp., a Florida-based media production consultant that received a $22 million contract to upgrade IMN facilities.

Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected] or 202/636-3085.

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