The woman with the lacquered blond hair and TV-friendly black pantsuit is holding a microphone here on the crowded floor of Madison Square Garden, getting ready to interview a Nevada delegate.
"I'm terrified," says Eileen Rice, the delegate and an emergency room nurse from the town of Zephyr Cove. "They called me up and asked me to do it, and I was dumb enough to say yes."
"Stand by, please," the floor director tells the two cameramen, and the woman with the mike begins: "Joining us now from the great state of Nevada is Eileen Rice." The discussion goes off without a hitch. "That's Eileen Rice, one of many people of compassion here at the Republican convention. We go now to the podium and Elisabeth Hasselbeck of ABC's 'The View.' "
The questioner is Christine Iverson, otherwise known as communications director of the Republican National Committee. She is part of a five-woman GOP team doing interviews and taped reports that have the look, feel and unmistakable texture of television news, and are carried on the 1,700-square-foot, neon-and-formica video screen inside the convention.
This is journalism as Bush World fantasy, stripped of all that annoying skepticism and attitude. It's supportive journalism, warm-and-fuzzy journalism, cheerleading journalism.
So why assume the role of faux correspondents? "The pacing," Iverson says. "It keeps things moving along quickly. You'll have a long speech, boom, you have a couple of quick hits from the floor."
The message is also carried beyond the hall, by C-SPAN's cinema verite coverage and by ABC News Now, a digital and online network. "All of my relatives have been calling me," Iverson says.
The team is a rainbow coalition that matches the diversity message the convention is trying to send. Two of the women are black and two are Hispanic. They call themselves CJs, or convention jockeys, and their mikes bear the RNC logo.
As the broadcast networks have cut back coverage of these conventions to a mere three hours, the party's imagemakers have tried to fill the void, turning the proceedings into a high-tech show punctuated by musical entertainment and guests including last year's Miss America. It was no accident that when ABC, CBS and NBC came on at 10 p.m. Tuesday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was already at the podium, and he led into the other speakers so seamlessly that network anchors and correspondents were left with little time for analysis.
By using the language and editing style that have become so familiar in newscasts, the Republican correspondents avoid the aura of propaganda while hitting their designated themes. Potential guests are pre-interviewed, just as on the network shows, to ensure that they are sufficiently interesting and articulate.
One CJ, Tara Wall, interviewed Rep. Anne Northup (R-Ky.) and two couples with adopted children, citing the president's efforts "to open the channels of adoption to American families." The taped report Tuesday included footage of Bush talking to children.
Wall, the RNC's director of minority outreach, was in another report Tuesday from Manhattan's Bowery slum on delegates donating food and clothing to the homeless. "This is America at its best, an example of George W. Bush's compassion across America," Wall reported.
In a phone conversation Wednesday from a train heading to Pennsylvania for a planned live segment for the convention, Wall says RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie asked her to head the effort because of her 13 years of experience at Michigan television stations.
The idea, she says, is that "we're living in a pop-culture TV age. We've gotten great feedback from the delegates and people outside the hall."
Asked to compare the convention reports with her earlier career, Wall says: "This is completely biased. We're certainly one-sided."
Iverson, who also did remote interviews with veterans from the USS Intrepid in New York Harbor, was a reporter and weekend anchor for the ABC affiliate in Sioux Falls, S.D., in the mid-1990s. "I did tornadoes, floods, county committee meetings, hog and corn prices, you name it," she says.
And how did she feel about standing in the spotlight on the Garden floor?
"For a brief, shining moment, I felt like I was back in the news business."