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Embedded reporters get marching orders

Feb 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod shipped out last weekend, leaving behind a wife five months pregnant. He plans to spend a few days in Kuwait City before he and cameraman Mario de Carvalho are “embedded” into the Third Infantry Division, where they will report on the war as it is experienced by the soldiers.
The two will account for one of the nine TV embedding opportunities the Pentagon has allocated to CBS on air, land and sea. By late last week, none of the embedding slots was scheduled to be occupied by a news team from a CBS affiliate.
NBC News was allocated 10 slots and was preparing for as many as three slots to be occupied by NBC affiliates.
ABC expected at least one of its 10 embedding opportunities to go to an affiliate.
CNN would not disclose how many embedding allocations it received, but it does not have to consider sharing them with local stations.
It is unclear how much interest local TV stations have in being deployed for the duration with troops since they also have, in addition to the possibility of access through their respective networks, the option of applying directly to local military commanders for the opportunity to embed.
Some news organizations, such as Tribune and Belo, which have significant print and broadcast news operations as well as busy Washington bureaus, have their own allocations, which will be distributed within the family.
Wartime assignments bring with them some “really serious issues” related to safety, said John Frazee, senior VP, news services, for CBS Newspath. He added that none of the affiliates that approached him about embedding had put their people through Pentagon-sponsored hostile-environment survival training.
For the journalists, there are questions about whether they will be able to file stories on precise deadlines as their assigned units are headed for the gates of Baghdad or other designated targets. The possibility of a crew being out of pocket for an extended period looms larger for a local station than for a national network.
“There is a pretty fine line between being embedded and being entombed,” said “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather.