NEW YORK -- 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 theirevening 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 Iraqileader 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, describing 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 US commander, General 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 US 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 yesterday. . ''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 too 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.
Donnie Wahlberg eyes cop drama
Donnie Wahlberg is in negotiations to star opposite Bobby Cannavale in NBC's untitled '70s cop drama from writer-producer Rand Ravich, which Clark Johnson is on board to direct.
Set in New York, the project is based on the real-life experiences of NYPD detectives Sonny Grosso and Eddie Egan, the cops behind one of the biggest drug busts in US history, which became the subject of the Oscar-winning 1971 feature ''The French Connection."
Wahlberg will play the character loosely based on Egan. In the movie, the role earned Gene Hackman an Academy Award.
Cannavale is playing his based-on-Grosso partner.
Wahlberg, star of NBC's critically acclaimed drama ''Boomtown," was most recently seen on the big screen in ''Dreamcatcher."
1 p.m.: John Paul, the AAA Car Doctor, talks about auto care.
Globe on NECN
Here's what's happening on ''Around the Globe" today on NECN:
12:30 p.m.: ''Globe at Home" -- North Weekly writer Steven Rosenberg and Douglas Gilbert, a psychotherapist from Amesbury, on the story behind Gilbert's rare photographs of Bob Dylan.
4 p.m.: ''Around the Globe"
6:30 p.m.: ''New England Business Day"
8 p.m.: ''NewsNight"
Schedule is subject to change.
Noon WUMB-FM (91.9) -- ''Live at Noon." Guest: Mustard's Retreat, veteran entertainers.
8 p.m. WCRB-FM (102.5) -- Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5; Mendelssohn's ''Italian" Symphony, Schubert's Symphony No. 3.