In popular culture, there’s the passing of the torch and the end of an era. In media, the latter seems to be happening far more often than the former. Trusted anchors are retiring to pen memoirs or reinvent their fame on social media. Where once they were replaced by trusted names who had been their understudies for years, now the new names are roasted and reviled, treated as punchlines and political footballs.
Those who try to stay above the harsh fray of the current political mood in the country are often unsuccessful, dragged down by association, if nothing else. But there are a few who might just leave both a legacy and a torch burning. Diane Rehm is one of these.
A stalwart on public radio for decades, Rehm signed off for the final time last month, bidding farewell to legions of fans who sought her out on the smaller numbers on the radio dial. Refusing to say “goodbye,” Rehm bid “farewell” to her listeners before the 80-year-old broadcast veteran retired from a career unlike most who have gone before. For nearly 40 years behind the mic, Rehm did what she loved. Taking calls, discussing issues and digging into matters of import like few other programs could claim to do.
In the final episode, regular listeners and Hollywood stars called in to wish Rehm well on wherever life takes her next. When others called, expressing regret and fear about the current state of things in the country, Rehm reminded them it would all be okay. An educator and a calming influence, that was Rehm in a nutshell.
But not all of her …
Rehm took some time in her final address to castigate her comrades in the media for a failure covering the recent political season. She said the press has failed to adequately listen. Then she broadened that criticism into a request that everyone take more time to listen and to listen actively. Stop trying to argue, she asked, instead, try to engage with questions … don’t shut people down.
And, with that, Rehm shut down. Clicked off her mic and left her spot to Joshua Johnson, who will debut a new show called “1A”. Promos say that program will center on issues related to the First Amendment.
So, what’s next for Rehm? Retirement? No chance. She will begin a weekly podcast in early 2017, going one-on-one with newsmakers, artists, thinkers and writers … and “the latest on living well…”
On that, Rehm appears to be an expert.