Diane Rehm is a native Washingtonian who began her radio career in 1973 as a volunteer producer for WAMU 88.5, the NPR member-station in Washington, D.C. She was hired as an assistant producer and later became the host and producer of two health-oriented programs. In 1979, she began hosting WAMU’s local morning talk show, Kaleidoscope, which was renamed The Diane Rehm Show in 1984.
Each week, more than 2.2 million listeners across the country tune in to The Diane Rehm Show, which has grown from a local morning call-in show to one of public broadcasting’s most popular programs. Rehm has embraced new technological platforms to engage her listeners — she takes questions for her guests via Twitter and has tens of thousands of fans on Facebook. The Diane Rehm Show was recognized for these achievements in social media, with the show’s Twitter handle (@drshow) winning a 2010 Shorty Award for best producer of short, real-time content in news.
The Diane Rehm Show was named to the Top 10 list of the most powerful programs in public radio for 2007 and 2008, based on its ability to draw listeners to public radio stations. It is the only live call-in talk show on the list. In 2010, Diane Rehm won a Peabody award (largely considered the most prestigious and selective prizes in electronic media) for her more than 30 years in public broadcasting.
In 1998, Rehm’s career nearly ended because of spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological voice disorder that causes strained, difficult speech. Rehm sought treatment, returned to the show, and called attention to the condition. The National Council on Communicative Disorders recognized her work with a Communication Award, and ABC’s Nightline devoted an entire program to a conversation with Rehm about her disorder. Recently, she has been consuming a drink that has eased her symptoms, the recipe for which was recommended by her voice coach, Gary Catona.
Rehm is a successful author of three autobiographical books: Finding My Voice (Knopf, 1999), in which she describes her childhood, marriage, career, and voice disorder; Toward Commitment: A Dialogue about Marriage (Knopf, 2002), a deeply personal book co-authored by her husband, John; and her most recent book written about her beloved dog, Life With Maxie (Gibbs Smith, 2010).
Rehm’s keen curiosity is reflected in the topics her program covers, which ranges from Iraq and the U.S. economy to the art of landscape design and James Joyce’s Ulysses. Each of the program’s two hours includes questions and comments from listeners who call The Diane Rehm Show to participate in a civil exchange of ideas. The program has been called one of the most interesting talk shows in the country, according to Newsweek magazine. National Journal says Rehm is “the class act of the talk radio world.”
Many of the nation’s prominent newsmakers, journalists, and authors have appeared on her show, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, and photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Rehm has been named “Washingtonian of the Year,” one of Washington’s “100 Most Powerful Women,” and one of the “150 Most Influential People in Washington” by Washingtonian magazine. In 2000, Rehm became the first radio talk show host to interview a sitting president in the Oval Office when she interviewed President Bill Clinton.
Rehm has received many honors and awards in her 30-year career, including: the inaugural Urbino (Italy) Press Award, the International Matrix Award from the Association for Women in Communications; and being named a Fellow by the Society of Professional Journalists — the highest honor the society bestows on a journalist — for extraordinary contributions to the profession. In 2011, she received the Excellence in Journalism Award from the American News Women's Club.
Rehm’s loyal connection to WAMU 88.5 and American University was recognized in 2007 when she was invited to receive an honorary degree and deliver the College of Arts and Sciences commencement speech. “I feel fortunate to have spent so many years in public broadcasting under the aegis of this fine University,” she told the graduates. “Our goals have been one and the same: to expand horizons, and to promote a deeper understanding of the world around us.”
Rehm is a director emerita of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and a trustee emerita of McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. She has been awarded honorary degrees from Virginia Theological Seminary, Washington College, and McDaniel College.
The Diane Rehm Show is produced at WAMU 88.5 and distributed by NPR, NPR Worldwide, and SIRIUS XM satellite radio. It can be heard on more than 150 stations nationwide. The program is also broadcast in Germany, Japan, and Finland, and is available on U.S. military installations worldwide on the Armed Forces Network. It can be streamed online at www.drshow.org.
In September 2011, Rehm celebrated 32 years as host of her own radio show as well as her 75th birthday. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, John, and their 8-year-old long-haired Chihuahua, Maxie (short for Maximillian). The couple has two children and four grandchildren.