Networks follow Obama overseas

Major nightly news anchors get exclusive interviews

NEW YORK -- When Barack Obama leaves for his trip to Europe and the Middle East this month, he'll be making time for press back home when the Big Three anchors interview him overseas.

The Obama campaign seeks to shore up its candidate's foreign policy credentials, one of the places where GOP rival John McCain bests him in most opinion surveys. To get the word out, campaign officials during the past several weeks have been talking to the broadcast networks about logistics for each of the exclusive interviews, all in foreign locales.

The details remain sketchy for security reasons, though it's confirmed that NBC's Brian Williams, ABC's Charles Gibson and CBS' Katie Couric all will have exclusive interviews with Obama while on the trip on separate days.

"We're still finalizing plans with the campaign with the kind of access we get given it's such a long way to travel," ABC "World News" executive producer Jonathan Banner said.

"This kind of trip by a candidate is unprecedented," CBS News senior vp Paul Friedman said.

But the intense coverage that Obama's trip will generate is causing debate within the halls of the network news divisions. A network exec said that no one's enjoying the position that the Obama campaign is putting them in, not to mention concerns about fairness. McCain's overseas trips didn't rate accompaniment from the network anchors or even, in at least one case, a full complement of network correspondents.

The networks also are talking to the McCain campaign to make sure that it's not all Obama, all the time next week.

"We have already reached out to them (the McCain campaign) to provide an equal opportunity to them," Banner said.