'Intrepid Cub Reporter' Living With A 'Colbert Bump'

A couple weeks ago, Katie Eastman was asleep at her boyfriend's place in Chicago. She had the night off from her job as a reporter at WOI-ABC 5 in Des Moines, Iowa. She'd been on the job about two months, after graduating from college in the spring.

"I woke up to a barrage of voicemails, text messages, tweets" she says. One message, from a friend across the country, said only, "Katie. I just saw everything. I hope you're all right. Call me."

As she was sleeping, Eastman had just broken into the national spotlight.

Her station had recently refused to air an ad from the Colbert SuperPAC, a super political action committee created by comedian Stephen Colbert. The ad encouraged Iowans to vote for "Rick Parry" in the straw poll — a misspelling of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name.

When WOI refused to air the ad, Colbert struck back on his satirical news show, The Colbert Report. Eastman and her boyfriend pulled it up online to watch.

"Clearly someone needs to get to the bottom of this corruption!" Colbert railed. "Someone on the inside, like intrepid WOI reporter Katie Eastman."

At that point, Eastman says, "I just died."

Colbert flashed Eastman's headshot and cut to a clip of her reporting on "the longest annual garage sale in Iowa."

"Katie blew the lid off of Garage-Sale-Gate!" Colbert said. "Clearly, Katie, you're the only one I can trust. Call me."

"I started screaming, and just like pacing the kitchen floor," Eastman says. "Like, 'That just did not just happen! No! That was my face! Oh, my gosh!'"

For most local news reporters who've been mocked on late-night television, that would have been it. Just the one-night punchline and everyone moves on. Not so for Katie.

The next week, Colbert circled back, picking out her coverage of a new city dog park.

"I smell a poo-litzer!" Colbert said.

Eastman's pretty excited about her sudden celebrity. "It's national television. The Colbert Report!" she says — though not without some trepidation for her career.

"I just — I really hope people don't think I only cover puppies."

Whatever they might think of her, there are definitely more people out there doing it. Someone set up a Facebook fan page for her. The local Fuddrucker's named a burger after her.

"Someone from California tweeted at me and said they had a dream about me," she says. "Isn't that weird?"

And it looks as though Eastman's "Colbert Bump" isn't over yet. Her name was back just last Thursday, when Colbert brought the WOI news team onto the show.

"Where's intrepid cub reporter Katie Eastman?" he demanded. "She's off today," they told him.

Which she was, she says. She probably needed the break.

"You can laugh at yourself," she says. "That's what I've been doing."

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LAURA SULLIVAN, host: Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Laura Sullivan. Things have been pretty busy for the staff of WOI News, the local ABC affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa, and not just because of last weekend's Republican straw poll. In fact, for one of the station's newest reporters, it's been positively surreal. Producer Brent Baughman has her story.


STEPHEN COLBERT: Welcome to the (unintelligible) everybody. Thank you so much.

BRENT BAUGHMAN: OK. Bear with me for a little exposition. For a few weeks now, comedian Stephen Colbert has been railing against this TV news station.

COLBERT: But WOI-ABC5, you have (bleep) with the wrong people.


BAUGHMAN: And the long and short of it is Colbert's beefing with this station in Iowa because this month he wanted to air some political ads of his own. But the station, WOI, said no. That was a little more than a week ago.

KATIE EASTMAN: It might just be the craziest week of my life.

BAUGHMAN: This is 22-year-old Katie Eastman. She and I went to college together, which wasn't that long ago. She graduated this year and has been working as a reporter for just about two months in Des Moines for the station that's upset Stephen Colbert. So let's pick it up last week two days before the straw poll.

EASTMAN: And I woke up to a barrage of voicemails, text messages, tweets...

BAUGHMAN: All saying she was on "The Colbert Report." So she and her boyfriend find the video online...


EASTMAN: And we started watching. And I was like, oh, it's our station. I get it, my - the station that I work for. And then...

COLBERT: Now, clearly, someone needs to get to the bottom of this corruption, someone on the inside, like the intrepid WOI reporter Katie Eastman...

EASTMAN: And I just died.

COLBERT: ...who has the courage to tackle the tough issues.

EASTMAN: Jessica, it is the longest annual garage sale in Iowa.



COLBERT: Katie blew the lid off of garage sale gates.

EASTMAN: I started screaming and just like pacing the kitchen floor, like, that did not just happen, no. That was my face. Oh my gosh. It was really weird.

BAUGHMAN: Now, for any number of local TV news reporters who've been mocked on late night television, that would have been it.

EASTMAN: Little did I know.

BAUGHMAN: On Monday night...

COLBERT: And you know who I think could really get to the bottom of this? Intrepid cub reporter Katie Eastman. She has proven that she is a journalistic bloodhound.

EASTMAN: The city of Des Moines has been talking about this park for a long time now, and dog owners of Des Moines couldn't be happier that the park is finally here.

BAUGHMAN: So at this point, Katie and everyone else at her station are going through this whole complicated I'm-being-mocked-on-national-television-by-someone-I-really-enjoy kind of thing.


COLBERT: I smell a Pulitzer.

EASTMAN: Yeah. It's national television.

BAUGHMAN: But meanwhile, she has to wonder...

EASTMAN: Oh, no. Is this terrible for my career?

BAUGHMAN: ...and not to mention...

EASTMAN: Someone tweeted at me this morning that they had a dream about me last night.


EASTMAN: Isn't that weird?

BAUGHMAN: And yes, Katie's story raises some really serious questions about American celebrity culture. I mean, some stranger set up a Facebook fan page for her, the local Fuddruckers named a burger after her. But who are we really laughing at here? Katie? Ourselves? But instead of getting into all that...


COLBERT: Anything else?

BAUGHMAN: Two days ago, Colbert invites the anchors at Katie's station on his show, who, of course, failed to deliver the crack reporting he wants.


COLBERT: Anybody got anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, the barnstormer sees an opener scheduled for...

COLBERT: Enough with the barnstormer. What about Perry? Where is intrepid cub reporter Katie Eastman?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: She's off today.

EASTMAN: She's off today. And I was - I was off. So I know. I know.


COLBERT: Remember, the whole world is watching. The whole world is watching.

EASTMAN: You can laugh at yourself. And so that's what I've been doing. I'm just laughing at myself and laughing at everything.

COLBERT: The whole world is watching.

BAUGHMAN: That's intrepid cub reporter Katie Eastman. And I'm Brent Baughman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.