Kimberly Davies

Behind the Scenes

"Hello, how may I help you?"

news logosI've probably said these words more than 30,000 times this summer, but I say it again with aplomb, at an annoyingly high pitch. I say it like the young, naive, educated, unpaid and exploited laborer that I have enthusiastically become. In short, I say it like any super striving Washington, DC intern worth her Mary Jane shoes, understated A-line skirt and potential to cause scandal. But unlike many other Washington interns in the thick of gossip on Capitol Hill, I've spent my summer pursuing the harried career of a long-form TV journalist at an ABC news show.

The show is a half-an-hour news program broadcast nightly. It is devoted to examining one topic or issue in as much depth as 22 minutes can realistically allow. The show began as an hour-long look at the Iran Contra Crisis of the early 1980s. For many viewers above 50 (I'm guessing from all the Viagra sponsorship), the show has remained a reliable and credible source of information.

Being in the "thick of things" at the show has actually meant I've been paying some serious dues. In between surviving off complimentary peanut butter and jelly packets to compliment Safeway bargain bread (a staple in my Unpaid Intern Diet), I've done much transcript photocopying, tape time coding, and phone and email answering -- all of which are somehow meant to guide me through the fundamentals of journalism.

What I've really learned from handling mountains of viewer mail is that the relationship between a TV broadcast and its viewers is as intense as it is intimate. And nowhere is this made more clear than in the angry and sometimes indignant correspondence I sort through. Every day, the show is bombarded by furious emails, phone calls and letters declaring the show's bias. Liberal bias. Conservative bias. Bias towards the gay community or George W Bush. Or the gay community and George W. Bush. And so on.

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