I talk to myself all the time, so sitting in a radio studio, talking to pretend people, with nobody there but the board operator, shouldn’t seem like such a stretch, but it’s way different than having a conversation with someone else. It’s a more thoughtful process, the monologue, and I’m probably not the best at it, but in a pinch, sometimes I’m all we’ve got. Yesterday was like that, when we decided to go live during the breaks in the Diane Rehm show. So in preparing, I thought about Diane Rehm, and how indicative she is of all that makes public radio so unique.
People who listen to Diane always comment first about her voice – if you’ve listened for any time at all you know that sometimes it’s better than others (she has spasmodic dysphonia – that’s why her voice sounds as it does and no, she’s not a hundred years old) and that sometimes she’s away getting voice treatments and then it’s really better for awhile. And people either love her or hate her. The people who love her are fiercely loyal and count on Diane to bring them the world.
Whatever you think about her, she has a very human voice. And that human voice is one of the things that positions public radio apart from every other form of news and information dissemination.
A uniquely human voice.
We’ve heard it recently in the reporting of Corey Flintoff and Jason Beaubien in Haiti, particularly Jason’s report of the injured child left outside a hotel. The real human emotion we could hear in his breaking voice reminded us, as listeners, that we are connected to our world best when we learn through human eyes, human ears, human voices on the ground in real time.
We recently heard something similar, though less dramatic, on Midday Matters when Phil Shaull and Deb Romary talked with two guests who were dealing – personally – with unemployment and how that experience was changing their worlds right to the core. I sat at my desk and listened and felt so touched by the raw honesty in their comments and was moved to, at the very least, be thankful for the ability and the opportunity to work.
Up close, in person – our community, our country, our world brought to us through the radio and through uniquely human voices, like Diane Rehm’s. I don’t really think, as some prophets say, that radio is going away any time soon. I don’t know who will replace Diane when that human voice finally gives out, or who will take Garrison Keillor’s place, or who might be the next Ira Glass (there will not, I’m aware, BE a next Ira Glass but somebody new and different), but somebody will, no doubt, and the uniquely human voices that come to us – when we punch the button on the left side of the spectrum – will continue to paint the world like nothing else.
Hang in there, Diane.