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Morning News Shows Update, Expand War Coverage

February 25, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ The TV network morning shows today brought news of allied advances, low U.S. casualties, upwards of 14,000 Iraqi prisoners taken, and correspondents’ reports from the front lines of the ground war against Iraq.

″There’s an artillery battle to the north,″ CBS’ Bob McKeown said in a telephone report from inside Kuwait. ″A mile ahead of me there is a line of tanks and there’s another line of rocket launchers firing in on (Iraqi) positions.″

ABC’s Forrest Sawyer, bush-hatted, gave a stand-up report from four or five kilometers inside Iraq, using the satellite uplink he’d taken into the desert.

NBC’s Tom Aspell and ABC’s Bill Blakemore reported from Baghdad, where allied forces continued the air war against the Iraqi capital.

President Bush, meanwhile, referred to the war in a late-morning speech from the White House honoring black Americans in the armed forces, but CBS cut away from his speech for reports from McKeown inside Kuwait.

CNN’s Brian Jenkins, moving with Saudi and Kuwaiti forces, also reported from inside Kuwait.

After nightfall, ABC’s Sawyer again reported live, this time awash in the luminous green glow of a night-vision lens.

Still, the reports were scattered and incomplete. ABC’s Peter Jennings, anchoring in New York, put it this way:

″There have been deep penetration thrusts into Iraq and into Kuwait across a fairly broad front, but you cannot at this time get a real sense of uniformity in terms of the actual accomplishments made on the battle ground one day and 11 hours into the ground war.″

ABC’s Mike von Fremd, who went behind enemy lines in the helicopter assault with 101st Airborne troops, reported that about 20 women pilots had participated in the operation.

″Men and women in combat is the now-operative phrase,″ Jennings noted.

ABC’s Dennis Troute, at the Pentagon, said U.S. casualties were ″still in the teens″ - while the White House was telling the network’s Ann Compton those figures were outdated.

″Good Morning America,″ on ABC forsook its early commercial lineup and had to wing it the rest of the morning. ″We’re now in commercial position 11,″ Joan Lunden told her audience and TV station engineers nationwide.

The networks reported that regular official news briefings were expected to resume today. U.S. Defense secretary Dick Cheney suspended them shortly after the U.S. -led ground war began Saturday night.

Overnight, there was little information available from official sources.

″We believe that those (U.S.) casualties are exceptionally light, given the size of the operations,″ NBC anchor Tom Brokaw said in Saudi Arabia.

The networks backed away from early reports that U.S. forces were in the outskirts of Kuwait City and had captured Failakka Island in the Bay of Kuwait.

The U.S. government has restricted reporters to pools, and reports were subject to military censorship before news and pictures could be transmitted to the United States.

At first, that restricted networks to reporting from a distance. Their analysts used simulations, toy tanks, electronic chalkboards, and informed guesswork on tactical doctrine to assess the progress of the land battle.

ABC and CNN aired the first video from the battlefield, a report from London-based ITN, an independent television agency. ITN, moving into Kuwait with Saudi mechanized columns, showed the first Iraqi prisoners of war, some of them wounded.

There was one story from Sawyer, from a quiet corner of the Kuwaiti frontier. And CNN’s Peter Arnett reported on the relative quiet in Baghdad.

Without pictures, there was little to sustain the news reports past noon Sunday. By then, ABC, CBS and NBC had gone back to their regular Sunday programming of basketball games and public affairs shows.

The pool video started arriving around 3 p.m. EST, when the first images of long column of Iraqi prisoners of war aired on CNN.

At one point, CBS interrupted its coverage of the Pitt-Syracuse basketball game for a live report from Dan Rather, showing tape of a Patriot missile knocking out a Scud missile being fired into Saudi Arabia.

By Sunday evening, ABC aired a special, 90-minute edition of ″World News Sunday,″ anchored by Ted Koppel.

CBS aired an hourlong ″Evening News,″ and a Gulf War edition of ″60 Minutes″ with a report on Kuwait’s government in exile before returning to its regular shows.

NBC ran a 90-minute news special, followed by an hourlong special edition of ″Expose″ with war coverage before its Sunday night movie, ″Good Morning, Vietnam.″

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