December 10, 2015

Public radio legend Diane Rehm announces her retirement


Diane Rehm

After 30 years on public radio, Diane Rehm is retiring from her daily talk show. Image via WAMU

After a 30 year career that has allowed her to interview politicians, presidents, and cultural icons, public radio host Diane Rehm has announced that she’ll be retiring from her eponymous show following the 2016 presidential election. The show has long been a place for authors to have in-depth, meaningful conversations about their books.

The Washington PostPaul Farhi details her rise to radio prominence:

A former secretary and stay-at-home mother who never attended college, Rehm first joined WAMU as a volunteer in 1973, booking guests for a program called “The Home Show.” She became the host of the station’s morning talk show, “Kaleidoscope,” in 1979. The show was renamed “The Diane Rehm Show” in 1984. It went into national syndication via NPR in 1995 after Rehm helped raise the money for distribution.

Broadcasting, as it always has, from Washington D.C., “The Diane Rehm Show” currently airs on two-hundred NPR stations across the country, and reaches 2.4 million listeners. Rehm was the first radio host to interview a sitting president (Bill Clinton) from the Oval Office, and is the winner of a Peabody Award.

Rehm’s distinctive voice (which many of us love!) is due to spasmodic dysphonia. In 2009, NPR reported her diagnosis.

Ten years ago, Rehm was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, a condition where the vocal cords constrict and strain speech. She’s treated every four months with an injection of botulinum toxin directly into her vocal cords. The pain of treatment and stress of therapy aren’t what worry her, however.

“My voice has made me far more concerned about whether I can get through an interview,” she admits. She wonders whether people will continue to listen, “or whether they will simply say, ‘What is that woman doing on the air? I can’t stand her voice.'”

Rehm isn’t sure yet what she’ll do after retirement, but for starters, she can expect to be on the other side of the microphone. According to the show’s website, Knopf will be publishing a memoir, On My Own, in early 2016. She’ll even be visiting a number of public radio stations during her book tour. She told Farhi she’s looking forward to it:

She called the decision to end her program “a very positive bit of news that delights me. . . . I feel so fortunate. I feel as if I’m in control of my own life not only now, but going forward.”




Julia Fleischaker is the director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.