Items of note from the war front
Television coverage of the war in Iraq is breaking new ground simply due to the massive volume of reports coming in. And while sampling that smorgasbord, I couldn't help but notice a few things.
• Smoothest coalition talker: Brig. Gen. Victor Brooks, who conducts daily briefings at Central Command, is expert at both fielding and diplomatically deflecting the increasingly testy questions being asked by reporters.
• Best new gizmo: Bet you didn't know that the videophones the embedded correspondents are relying on to file reports were first tested by KATU (2) in 1994. Back then, the station's sports department used the phones for its 'Sports Extra' coverage of high school football. With the videophones, KATU was able to show highlights from outlying areas such as Seaside and Tillamook.
The news networks first began using them on a wide scale from Afghanistan after 9-11.
• Most noticeable disappearance: Peter Arnett can't stay employed or out of trouble. NBC fired him Monday after he appeared on Iraqi TV and made remarks critical of the coalition war effort. For Arnett, that was the second high-profile firing, coming almost exactly four years after being terminated by CNN after a controversial report about an incursion into Laos by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War.
• Second most noticeable disappearance: As fighting has intensified, the Army recruiting commercials that showed up frequently during the early days of the war largely have disappeared.
• Hitting her stride: CNN's Christiane Amanpour has delivered hard-hitting, on-the-scene reporting from Basra.
• DŽjˆ Three: Much-traveled Keith Olberman joins MSNBC for a third time, hosting the prime-time war wrap-up 'Countdown with Keith Olberman.'
• Goofiest effort to localize war: KGW (8) compared Iraq's population to Oregon's and Baghdad's population to Portland's.
• Oddest reverse embedding: KOIN (6) has been using a Washington state trooper on its traffic reports.
• Latest anchor trend: The smart anchors now focus on asking questions of correspondents and military analysts, and then get out of the way. The story ain't in the studio.
• Best evening news wrap-up of the war: 'NBC Nightly News.'
• Most famous newsperson in Iraq: ABC's Ted Koppel, traveling with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.
• Best military analyst: Retired Gen. David Grange on CNN.
• Most unlikely embedded correspondent: CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a brain surgeon with the roving medical team the Devil Docs.
• Most surprising fade by a star: MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield, whose eyeglasses rose to prominence during 9-11 coverage and whose show was canceled last year. Now, she's covering the war from Fort Campbell, Ky.
• Least surprising fade by a star: Connie Chung, whose prime-time interview program was yanked by CNN last week. Chung was hired when CNN management was looking for star power. That management is out, and so is Chung.