US news anchors follow Obama to capital

Approximately 450 visiting and Israel-based journalists, and 3 top US anchors join tour.

reporters 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
reporters 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Major streets in Jerusalem will be closed on Wednesday, and millions around the world will be watching - and not because of Tuesday's bulldozer terrorist attack. Barack Obama is in town, along with hundreds of media personnel. Approximately 50 visiting journalists, most of the 400 foreign correspondents based in Israel, and the three anchors from the top US media networks will be following Obama through his day-and-a-half visit to the Holy Land as part of a longer trip to Europe and the Middle East. Katie Couric of CBS, Charles Gibson of ABC and Brian Williams of NBC have been promised exclusive, personal interviews with the presidential candidate. NBC, ABC and CBS evening newscasts are originating from stops along the route and will undoubtedly give it big play. Marcus Sheff, executive director of The Israel Project's Jerusalem Office, said Obama's visit to Sderot on Wednesday would be one of the key aspects of his trip to Israel. "Visiting a community which has been victim to Iran-backed terror from Gaza for the past eight years shows solidarity and sends the message that terrorism must be stopped," Sheff said. "By being in Israel and seeing a country where coexistence and diversity thrives, [Obama] will be exposed to the shared values that he has been talking about. Israel's citizens are its best advocates." Eli Ovits, director of communications for The Israel Project, agreed that the Sderot visit was central to Obama's trip. "Seeing the impact of terror in Sderot on the one hand in contrast with the situation in the West Bank will reflect the policies of Hamas in contrast with the more moderate Palestinian leadership," he said. According to Ovits, the recent relative quiet in the West Bank is a testament to Israel's efforts for dialogue, coexistence, and peace. Ovits hoped that Obama and his media posse would portray Israel in a positive light despite its security concerns. US presidential candidate John McCain's March visit to Israel did not attract nearly as much of a media frenzy. McCain's trip was covered by several networks, both Israeli and foreign; however, only NBC and ABC sent special correspondents, and network anchors were out of the question. Obama has "proven adept at generating excitement," said David Folkenflik, media correspondent for US National Public Radio. He said the anchors hoped "a little bit of that excitement will rub off on their newscasts if they can convey an American phenomenon abroad, if that's what it turns out to be. Senator McCain is not as magnetic a figure in that way." Jim Geraghty, a columnist for National Review Online, said Obama's paucity of foreign travel as a presidential candidate made the trip a natural draw for news organizations, while "McCain has been around forever, and he's probably been to all these places before." But, Geraghty said, "the networks will be acting as a PR wing for the Obama campaign if they treat any of these photo ops as truly newsworthy breakthroughs." The Washington Post contributed to this report.