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LAURA SULLIVAN, host: 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT: Welcome, 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

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...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE COLBERT REPORT')

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.

BAUGHMAN: Ooh.

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...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

COLBERT: Anything else?

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

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

COLBERT: Anybody got anything?

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

COLBERT: Enough with the barnstormers. 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

COLBERT: Remember, the whole world is watching. (Chanting) 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.

(Soundbite of Colbert and audience: (chanting) The whole world is watching.) BAUGHMAN: That's intrepid cub reporter Katie Eastman. And I'm Brent Baughman, NPR News.

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