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ABC wins Lynch sweepstakes

NEW YORK — ABC News' Diane Sawyer was chosen Monday for the first television news interview with Jessica Lynch, considered the year's most highly sought-after broadcast "get."

Sawyer's interview with the former prisoner of war will air in prime time on Nov. 11, Veteran's Day and the day Lynch's book is scheduled to be published.

It's also in the middle of the November ratings "sweeps," when ratings are watched closely to set ad rates.

Many of the network news stars, including Sawyer and NBC's Katie Couric, had sought the interview — even though there's some question about what Lynch remembers about her capture and rescue in Iraq this spring.

"I've been doing this for 20 years and I've never seen anything like this," said Paul Bogaards, publicity director for Lynch's publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. "It was like blood sport, the competition for this story."

CBS News was embarrassed in June when it was revealed the Viacom-owned network had hinted at publishing and MTV deals in its pitch for a Lynch interview. The network had no comment about Lynch's decision.

ABC's news division made the pitch for the interview, with no entertainment shows involved, ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said.

ABC's ability to draw big ratings for newsmaking interviews tied to book projects — with Sen. Hillary Clinton and actors Michael J. Fox and Christopher Reeve, for example — played a part in granting Sawyer the exclusive, Bogaards said.

Lynch, from West Virginia, also liked Sawyer's Kentucky background and "her familiarity with the routine and pace of life in a small town," he said.

Knopf has set up a complete media strategy for Lynch that also includes an interview with Couric for "Today" to air starting Nov. 12. That's a hollow victory since Sawyer, host of "Good Morning America," is likely to begin airing excerpts of her talk a day earlier.

Lynch also will make an appearance on the CBS "Late Show" with David Letterman on Nov 14. Then she'll appear on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Nov. 17 with her family and Rick Bragg, who is writing her authorized biography.