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MSNBC to embed journos with Dem hopefuls

Cable net boosts vote coverage

NEW YORK — Beginning its 2004 presidential election coverage in earnest, NBC News said Tuesday that MSNBC will soon “embed” journalists with each of the Democratic candidates.

NBC News exec producer for special projects Mark Lukasiewicz said the reporters will be equipped with smaller cameras, giving them more intimate access to the contenders.

“What we’ve discovered, particularly over the past few years, is the capability of a small tape format to give a lot more reality to what you see,” Lukasiewicz said.

For the near future, at least, these reports will be seen primarily on MSNBC and not so much on the broadcast net.

Even though the presidential election is more than a year off, there is already a fierce sense of competition among the various network news divisions and news nets, with each rushing to roll out a strategy and a way to differentiate themselves from one another.

Having a cable news net gives NBC News an advantage in that it can afford to begin covering each campaign so early on. These campaign reporters also will file reports for the Peacock’s online political newsletter “First Read,” which bowed July 1.

The other broadcast news nets also are beginning to institute major campaign coverage initiatives.

MSNBC tapped four NBC News staffers for its embed project and hired another five from outside. The Peacock is borrowing the term “embed” from the Iraq war, during which the Pentagon placed hundreds of journalists with troops.

“Our audience understands, after the war with Iraq, that you get a different kind of coverage — a more intimate kind of access — when journalists spend every possible moment following their subject, and stick with the story day in and day out over a long period,” MSNBC prexy Erik Sorenson said.

Insiders at other networks said MSNBC’s use of the word embed was inappropriate. “That was a war, and this is an election,” one net exec said.

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