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. The Diane Rehm Show ran until December 2016, after more than 30 years of Diane Rehm hosting her own show. She now hosts a podcast produced at WAMU 88.5, On My Mind.
More than 2.2 million listeners across the country tuned in each week to The Diane Rehm Show, which grew from a local morning call-in show to one of public broadcasting's most popular programs. Rehm embraced new technological platforms to engage her listeners — she took 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 account (@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, widely considered among 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. In 2011, Rehm was awarded the Voice Education Research Awareness (VERA) Award from The Voice Foundation for her sustained contributions to the field of voice communication.
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 a book written about her beloved dog, Life With Maxie (Gibbs Smith, 2010).
Rehm's keen curiosity was reflected in the topics her program covered, which ranged 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 included questions and comments from listeners who called 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 said 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-Senator 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, Senator John McCain (R-Az.), Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, and photographer Annie Leibovitz. 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 been named "Washingtonian of the Year," as well as one of the "150 Most Influential People in Washington" by Washingtonian magazine. She has also been included several times on the magazine's list of the "100 Most Powerful Women," most recently in 2011.
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, McDaniel College, and Shepherd University.
In September 2009, Rehm celebrated 30 years as host of her own radio show. The Diane Rehm Show was produced at WAMU 88.5 and distributed by NPR, NPR Worldwide, and SIRIUS XM satellite radio. It was heard on more than 160 stations nationwide. The program was also broadcast in Germany, Japan, and Finland, and was available on U.S. military installations worldwide on the Armed Forces Network.