The face of U.S. public radio is about to change. Long-time stalwart Diane Rehm will retire in December; her last show is rumored to be Dec. 23. "The Diane Rehm Show" is distributed to more than 200 public radio stations, digital networks and a podcast, according to NPR. When presenting the National Humanities medal to Rehm a couple of years ago, President Barak Obama whispered in her ear that he remembered being a guest on her show before getting his current gig.

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Negotiations are supposedly underway for a repeat interview before Rehm leaves.

Rehm introduced Joshua Johnson to her audience Nov. 16 as a new voice who will be in her time slot. He will not attempt to fill her shoes. The home station, WAMU in Washington D.C., has replaced hosts and programs aimed at younger, more diverse audiences recently. Johnson is an experienced journalist who has worked at KQED public radio in San Francisco and teaches podcasting at the University of California at Berkeley.

Diane Rehm and Joshua Johnson, the host of The Diane Rehm Show's successor program, 1A. MADELEINE POORE/WAMU (from station)
Diane Rehm and Joshua Johnson, the host of The Diane Rehm Show's successor program, 1A. MADELEINE POORE/WAMU (from station)

About the new show

Johnson’s new show will be titled "A1." It is scheduled to start Jan. 2, 2017. He wants people discussing “controversial," “infuriating” issues that appear on the top of the fold on the front page of newspapers, Johnson said. He also wants listeners to understand, respect and practice their first amendment rights.

Johnson said he hopes to allow people to speak in their voice rather than have someone speak for them. He wants to give people a safe space for people to be heard.

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“We can’t control what people say,” he said on Rehm’s Nov. 16 show, “but we can influence the way that people see and hear one another.”

Looking back, looking forward

Johnson co-created and hosted the nationwide public radio series, "Truth Be Told," which explored race in America. He began his career helping to launch a partnership between Miami’s NPR station, WLRN, and The Miami Herald. He served for over five years as morning News host for KQED in San Francisco, where he became one of the station’s stars.

As for Rehm, a Peabody Award winner and recipient of the National Humanities medal, she plans to start a podcast as she turns 80 and try new adventures. “Life goes on. And I will go on in many different ways,” she said in an interview with Next Avenue. Rehm started as a volunteer at WAMU in 1973. She took to the airwaves in 1979. That show was renamed for the host in 1984. One of her guests on a program on how generations view social media and technology included her teenage grandson.

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