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"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" employs UTC alumna

John Stewart and Gina Brown

Communication alumna Gina Brown's career began in New York City, took a side trip to Chattanooga, and has taken her back to the Big Apple, where she has happily worked as the Production Coordinator for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" for several years.

Brown's face is familiar to those who follow local news in Chattanooga. She spent a year as a reporter for WDSI Fox 61, and later worked as a reporter for the NBC affiliate, WRCB TV 3. Not only does she work behind the scenes, at "The Daily Show with John Stewart," but she has begun to satisfy her hunger to perform with occasional on-camera appearances.

When Brown was a student at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, she landed the kind of intern opportunity that would make her communication peers salivate. In 1999, Brown moved to New York City to learn on the set of "The Late Show with David Letterman."

"Dave Letterman is very involved and he has an incredible staff that works their collective you-know-what-off to put on the shows you see every night," Brown said.

Saying she was much braver then, Brown marvels at how she lived with two other interns in a walk-up at 61st and Lexington.

"We rotated between a bed, a pullout and a futon," Brown said. "Though I had an amazing time during my internship, I really learned a lot living and working in such close proximity with two other kids my age."

Upon her return to Chattanooga, she graduated from UTC and returned to NYC as the Talent Receptionist at "The Late Show with David Letterman," meaning Brown answered phones all day long, and she even answered the phone at her house by saying, "Late Show!"

It wasn't long before "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" offered Brown the job of Production Assistant.

"My first job there was about logging tapes, answering phones, ordering supplies, fixing copiers, running around scripts. Some may call it gofer work, but I'm so glad I did it. I think anyone who doesn't come up through the ranks is truly missing out on the process," Brown said.

Brown's responsibilities increased when she was named Production Coordinator, and her career seemed to be on track. But she took an impulsive leap, and decided she wanted to be a news reporter. In Chattanooga, she was hired as the weekend reporter for Fox 61 News.

She later transitioned to WRCB Eyewitness News, where Brown realized she was in the best job she ever had, and the worst.

"I like to perform, but not as Gina Brown," Brown said. "I think to grow as a reporter you really have to have tenacity unlike any other. I didn't have it for that particular profession. I enjoyed the process of telling a story, but I needed my own pace."

One of Brown's mentors, Eyewitness News anchor David Carroll, says her appealing personality came through on the air, and viewers often felt like they knew her.

"She wasn't trying to be Diane Sawyer, or Katie Couric or anyone else but Gina. She has that sparkle in her eye, and she is so full of life. People come and go in our business, and sometimes we don't hear much about them after they're gone. But people still ask about Gina," Carroll said.

Her decision to quit reporting brought her back to the realization that she missed New York, and she again landed the job of Production Coordinator at "The Daily Show," where she says she acts as a facilitator.

"If we need a prop, I send an intern to get the prop. If we need footage, I have an intern go through footage to find the shot," Brown said. "I also work with the field department, which shoots the stories that feature other correspondents. I help them set up shoots, accommodations, and crews."

Taking another job at The Daily Show was a way to get herself back to New York City, Brown said.

"The show had changed so much since I left. The people are still there, but the content, the momentum and the expectations are at a different level. I remember when it was such a shock when we were nominated for Emmys. Now, many people I work with have statues as bookends. I'm very proud to work on a show that I think is an alternative way to look at everything we're given through media. The show takes a story and says, 'here it is but let's look at it this way, and then let's laugh about it,'" Brown said.

August 11, 2006

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