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Randall Bloomquist deserves his own form of the “mega dittos” for his excellent article about Diane Rehm (“Too Much of the Goodness Thing,” 8/2). Everything: the insiderism, the schoolmarmishness, the narrow cultural/ideological parameters from which she speaks. It’s all spot on. Yet somehow I have the sense that Rehm’s real fault lies slightly elsewhere.
Without a doubt, Rehm is a hopelessly dull and ineffective interviewer, and while it is possible to “learn” things from her show, the disincentive to do so is overwhelming. What to do, though? The ratings Bloomquist cites speak for themselves. People actually listen to her, no doubt nodding in prudish agreement with her “on the cuff” truisms and not-so-well-hidden approval of “sensible” expert comments. For some around the country she is probably a step up, though in this city one merely has to compare her to her WAMU colleague, Derek McGinty, to format a telling contrast of above average versus below average (all this in an NPR context).
Ultimately, I think Rehm’s fundamental flaw, if you will, lies in her inability and/or disinterest in presenting an intellectually challenging show, both for her listeners and her guests. Rehm’s defensive “what’s wrong with Larry King?” comment presents damningly the limited scope of her critical faculties. One is left with no choice but to set her aside as merely a “host,” not a journalist (not even remotely). Mind you, with that croaking voice and snaillike cadence (who can wait for her to finish a sentence?), I wouldn’t even hire her in such a reduced role.