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On-Air War

Who’s winning the TV battle in Iraq? They report, we decide.

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MILITARY INTELLIGENCE: CNN scored the biggest coup by contracting ex–NATO commander Wesley Clark as its highbrow battle analyst. Given that he’s a presidential contender for the Democrats, count on GOP researchers to record his every word, including criticism of troop size, in case he tries to graduate from Aaron Brown’s wing man to the West Wing.

IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE DESERT? With gusto and a stethoscope, CNN’s M.D., brain surgeon Sanjay Gupta, now rivals MSNBC’s globe-trotting medic, Bob Arnot. On the front lines with the Navy’s “Devil Docs,” he cheerfully reported not having showered for nine days. He also pledged to help with head injuries: “I would be honored to do so.”

ALLIED SUPPORT: With its 200 correspondents and techies, the BBC wastes less time in ersatz situation rooms and has no uk at war! rubrics. Having unwittingly called on a third BBC questioner at his first briefing, General Tommy Franks noted their ubiquity. “We're like you,” said the reporter. “We’ve got lots of different arms, lots of different services.”

WE REPORT, WE DECIDE: Fox News brooks so little criticism of the U.S. that competitors now refer to it as Tass, the Soviet channel. It countered last Monday’s dark day of war news with a heavy barrage of anti–Michael Moore footage. And leave it to Shep Smith to come up with the slogan “Stay strong. Stay aware. And stay with Fox.”

GET ME THE NEW ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: No-name heroes emerged on the front lines, proving that when getting their war on, they were in it to win it. May Ling Welsh, stepping in for CNN after Nic Robertson’s expulsion from Baghdad, broadcast by satellite phone from the Tigris banks as Tomahawks hit their targets. CNN’s Jason Bellini also scored when his unit captured 250 Iraqi troops.

WAR WORN: ABC’s helmeted Ted Koppel looked vaguely Dukakis-like when crossing into southern Iraq. But no correspondent stared more showily into the face of death than CBS’s Erin Moriarty, who conducted her Kuwait City live shot through a gas mask. Couldn’t she have moved indoors? Matt Lauer’s snowboarder sunglasses in Doha were as off-putting as Peter Arnett’s cropped suede jacket. And while much backstage attention managed to tame sandstorm flyaways, CNN’s Aaron Brown saw his own mane turn a deep umber in anticipation of all his airtime.


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