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TV crew to scour Iraq for stories not being told

Sinclair Broadcast Group is sending a news crew to Iraq next month to uncover the stories its officials believe are being overlooked by reporters for major American television news organizations.

There might be real accomplishments for the U.S.-led occupation, said Mark Hyman, Sinclair's vice president for corporate affairs, but if so, they are being drowned out by the constant barrage of stories about guerrilla actions against coalition troops.

"Clearly, those are the big stories of the day," Hyman said. "Are they the only stories? Anecdotally, we're told they're not."

The team will be led by Jon Leiberman, a former investigative reporter who heads Sinclair's Washington bureau. Part of the Sinclair mandate will be to answer questions selected from hundreds of viewers' queries and to determine the activities of military units based in the home communities of Sinclair stations. Thirty-seven of Sinclair's 62 American television stations will run the reports.

"Our mission really is to tell stories we think local news viewers aren't getting throughout the country," Leiberman said. The newscasts for most local stations, including those of Sinclair, rely on dispatches filed by larger news networks, such as the Associated Press or CNN, he said. "A lot of our trip is going to focus on the Iraqi people and members of the (U.S.) military."

Hyman also will travel to the Middle East as part of the news-gathering team. He is better known to viewers of Sinclair stations for his commentaries on the regular feature "The Point," many of which have taken a caustic view toward critics of President Bush's handling of the war.

The group will leave the United States on Feb. 7, and visit more than a dozen cities, including Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Sulaymaniyah.

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A musical interlude

The 82nd Airborne Division Chorus performs for a full house at the division chow hall in Ar Ramadi Friday.