By Kris Kitto - 02/10/11 12:56 AM EST
Move over, Savannah Guthrie, there’s a new ace reporter in the White House, and her name is Jane Carmichael.
Carmichael is a key player in a new venture from The Onion, the satirical newspaper that regularly makes fun of national news and newsmakers, including Washington’s biggest names. It now has a broadcast news program, “The Onion News Network.”
The Hill caught up with Carmichael, “ONN’s” Washington correspondent, to hear how she got so good at her job.
“ONN” debuted last month and can be seen Fridays at 10 p.m. on IFC, the Independent Film Channel.
How did you become interested in political journalism?
I was deemed “too pale” to be an entertainment reporter, so this was my next best option.
What’s been the highlight of your Washington journalism career thus far?
It’s exciting to be right there when a big story breaks. I was at the White House when [President] Obama’s home teleprompter malfunctioned during dinner with his family and he had to ad-lib half an hour of conversation with Michelle and the kids. It was amazing how well he handled it.
Any tips on how to break big stories here?
The key is to be fast, before a competing news agency gets the story. You don’t have time to provide context or analysis. Those things are boring anyway. Just get to the conflict in the story by playing the most inflammatory sound bite you have.
Who in Washington would you most like to interview?
[Rep.] Ron Paul [R-Texas]. I hear he has some exciting plans to revolutionize the American transportation system with steam-powered zeppelins. Or Energy Secretary Steven Chu, but only because he borrowed one of my sweaters and I’d like the chance to get it back.
What’s the most nerve-racking thing about doing a live shot at the White House?
The ever-present possibility that Joe Biden will get in his four-by-four and start doing doughnuts on the lawn behind me. Ruins the shot every time.
In “ONN’s” debut broadcast, you reported on the story of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il wanting to be in the next Batman movie. What was the hardest part of nailing that story? I imagine you have to be pretty well-versed in foreign policy to file stories like that one.
Well, it helps that everyone who works at the “Onion News Network” is required to learn to speak North Korean. They call it “Preparation for Phase 2.” I can’t say much more about that.
Who do you think is the most intriguing member of Congress?
[Rep.] Michele Bachmann [R-Minn.]. She doesn’t talk about it much publicly, but insiders know she’s a Rhodes scholar who spent several years in the Peace Corps developing sustainable water-delivery systems for impoverished villages in Africa. Also, she has a prehensile tail. Little-known fact.
Any update on the story you recently reported on members of Congress not remembering how to pass legislation?
They’ve decided to just not pass any more legislation. Congressmen will still come to work and argue with each other and campaign every few years, but actual “governing” will not be a part of their job anymore.
What do you think will be the big Washington-based story this year?
There have been a lot of rumors circulating among the Republicans that Obama doesn’t actually love his dog. It could be all anyone talks about for the next four months, which would be a welcome relief from all this economy-healthcare-Middle East stuff.
Might we see you covering the 2012 presidential election?
At the “Onion News Network,” we’ve already turned our focus to the 2016 election. [Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius’s numbers just jumped two points.
Do you have any advice for budding journalists in this city?
Be professional. Never refer to a politician you’re interviewing by the nickname you call him when the two of you are palling around at the Bullfeathers happy hour.
If you weren’t a broadcast journalist, what would you be?
Sober? Still married? Happy? Next question, please.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Cook, play with my cat and try not think about the massive noise machine in which I am a cog.
To recommend a political personality for 20 Questions, call Kris Kitto at (202)628-8539 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.