American television networks have all sent their top anchors to Iraq this week to cover Sunday's elections, using them as a news hook to update viewers about what's going on in the war zone.
NBC's Brian Williams, ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS's Dan Rather have been anchoring their evening news broadcasts from Iraq. Fox News Channel's Shepard Smith and CNN's Anderson Cooper are doing the same for their cablecasts.
Rather, who landed the last network interview with Saddam Hussein before the former Iraqi leader was toppled, has been to the country more than a dozen times.
Last weekend, Rather was embedded with a Marine unit about 30 miles south of Baghdad, and described in multiple CBS Evening News packages how they are preparing for elections in an area with a large number of insurgents.
"Better is a relative term in Baghdad," he said in one report about an airborne unit. "There's still plenty of shooting, but Americans on patrol are now less likely to face major firefights. The most common attack is a hand grenade lobbed over a wall."
Jennings spent a day with the top U.S. commander, Gen. George Casey, who has been a popular interview subject among the TV journalists. The "World News Tonight" anchor has also gone to Mosul to talk to Iraqi election workers and was visiting the Abu Ghraib prison.
ABC's reporting will also include the third installment of its "Where Things Stand" series. The network has surveyed more than 1,300 Iraqi citizens on their opinions, and is working with teams of Iraqi reporters from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
Williams interviewed Casey for NBC's "Nightly News," visited Mosul and is working on a story about Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.
Fox's Smith took rides in a helicopter and armored Humvee to get a look at conditions in Sadr City, and also interviewed John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
It took CNN's Cooper three tries to get into Baghdad; twice his airplane was diverted back to Jordan because of military activity.
"We're trying to get as much of a pulse of what's going on as we can," he said on Thursday. "As you know, it's a dynamic security environment."
He hopes to travel around the country as much as possible to talk to Iraqis. The campaign is unlike anything he's ever seen. With rallies to tempting a target for terrorists and some candidates afraid to show their faces, the campaign is largely conducted on posters throughout the country, he said.
By David Bauder