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A Success...Yes. An Inspiration...Absolutely.

by Ed Ryan

During our nationwide search for the best PD's in America I often came across a tidbit of information someone sends in that really grabs my attention. Our goal is to make these lists more than just lists. We want you to know who these people are. Everyone's work is important and everyone's life is special. When I find that tidbit of information I do what any nosey reporter does, I pry. And that's what I did with Diane Newman, the Program Director at Entercom's legendary WWL in New Orleans.

Diane's role model is 81 year old Althea Lanoix Newman, her mom. That's pretty cool when your mom is first on the list of people you admire. Mrs. Newman, Diane's Mom, is a breast cancer survivor and I'm sure pretty darn proud of her daughter. You know what they say about the "C" word. If it's in your family you better get checked out. So, about one year ago, Diane Newman goes in for a checkup and hears the words "suspicious mammogram." I don't want to give away too much of the story because Diane tells it so well. This is more than a story about a great PD at a legendary radio station. It's about company becoming family and in return being rewarded with great employees. It's a great story, for many reasons, and we're glad Diane allowed us to share it all with you. 

How long have you been in radio?
Ive been in radio since February 1981.  I was working on a masters in Communications at UNO had worked in TV for a couple of yearsthought Id get a feel for radio and maybe stay a year.  I was hired as a part-time studio producer for $3.81 an hour.  My father thought I was out of my mind.  He said, Diane, I have tellers who earn more than that.  You have a degree.  30 years later--here I am!  Most programmers have to travel around the countryfrom smaller markets to bigger marketsuntil they land at their dream station.  I started out thereWWL! 

In 1989 Keymarket Communications, Johnny Andrews (GM) and Bob Christopher (OM), gave me the opportunity to be the Program Director for WWL.   In 1999 Entercom bought our radio cluster.  They named me Operations and Program Director in 2000.  We had a lot of catching up to do.  Entercom was so progressive.  They were shocked that we were still using typewriters in the newsroom at the legendary WWL!

What's that like?
Programming a legendary station like WWL is an honor and a privilegereally.  This station has been around since 1922.  Its an institutionas much a part of New Orleans as St. Louis Cathedralgumboand the mighty Mississippi.  President John F. Kennedy used the powerful signal of WWL to speak to the Cuban people during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  

WWL helped rescue my family from flood waters in Gentilly during Hurricane Betsy in the 1960s.  Then, ironically, in 2005, I was programming WWL when it became a lifeline to New Orleans, the Gulf South and the nationduring Hurricane Katrina.  Its an amazing, powerful, demanding stage. You have to bring your A game all the time. It settles for no less. And, people may think of New Orleans as a medium size market, but truth iswhen it comes to news, controversy, unexpected stories and eventsits a top 10 news market.  It churns constantly. 

Marry all that action with this radio station that reaches 5 states daytime/38-plus at nightand the demands of a News-Talk-Sports format thats live and local 19 hours a dayand youre in constant motion.  Katrina aftermath, BP Oil Spill, Saints win Super Bowl.  Its exciting, demanding, fun.   Andy Holt, my good friend who now programs KOIT in San Francisco always tells me, Di, I could never do your jobIm not that smart.  My response?  Not true.  Besidesits called stamina and endurance.  Sure you need smarts, but you better be readyall the time.  Plan A, plan B, plan C plan G?  And, it helps to surround yourself with extraordinary people, who have gifts you dont have or talents that compliment yours.  The one thing that made me fall in love with radio is its collaborative nature.  You HAVE TO play team ball or you fail.  At WWL we prepare, plan, play like the pros.
When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2010.  I had a suspicious mammogram.  Ive had that before, so I didnt panic.  I get mammograms religiously, because my Mom had breast cancer in her early 40s. (Shes my role model. Althea Lanoix Newman is now 81 years old. God is good!)

What was your initial reaction when you heard the C word?
After the ultra sound and the biopsy, I kinda felt it coming.  The techs involved didnt SAY anything, but their actions said a lotavoiding eye contact, or being overly reassuring.  But, when Dr. Stolier told me, its cancer...suddenly the world fell silent.  I could die.  I cried for about 30 secondsthen I put my war paint onDoc, whats our game plan?  What do we do next?  We met the next morning.  I dont know muchbut I know when to surrender.  I know radio.  I dont know cancer.  I know how to be a good daughter, sister, friend, loverI know how to danceI dont have the ability to remove cancer from my body.  Dr. Alan Stoliers the brilliant surgeon everybody recommended.  I surrendered. 

How did the operation/treatment etc affect your ability to work?
Once diagnosed I had to get numerous other testsa breast MRI, a body scan, more blood work, x-rays, another ultra sound. Id get my tests then go to work. I learned from my Mom that cancer has no power over you, if you dont keep it a secret. I told my staff and all my friends and co-workers in our clusterall they wanted to do was help me through. They even gave me a chemo shower!  Seven of the guys shaved their heads and did a video to honor me! 

And, what David Field (CEO), Deborah Kane (Regional President), Pat Paxton (Senior VP of Programming) and my boss Chris Claus preached from the start was Di FIRST.  Diane, YOU come first.  David called me personally to tell me, Diane from now onnumbers 1 through 27 on your list of things to do are Diane Newman.  Everything else can wait.  It doesnt get any better than that!   Entercom is so much more than a company, theyre family.   We all learned that during and after Katrina; this cancer episode reinforced what I already knew.  

I had surgery at the end of December; I missed two weeks of work.  That was tough--the Saints were in the playoffs!  Then, I had to have another minor surgery - to get a port placed in my chest.  This would allow them to pump the chemo drugs straight into your heart; a more efficient method than pumping it through your veins.  After that - four months of chemotherapy February through Mayevery three weeks.  I worked through chemo.  My amazing chemo doc, Dr. Milton Seiler told me, Most women work through chemo.  Men, thats a different story.  

I had chemo on Fridays.  Id miss that Friday and the following Monday, then work until the next chemo.  The effects are cumulative, so the more you go the tougher it gets.  By chemo number four, I missed Friday, Monday and Tuesday.  By chemo number five, I missed Friday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  By chemo number six, I missed Friday and the following week.  Sure, I got nauseated.  I lost my hair.  Got thrush.  Got flu-like symptoms from those damned Neulasta shots. My toenails turned purple.  And, yes, I got tired.  But, my jobmy teammy partners at work (and, of course, my dear family and friends)propelled me through.  And, every time I went to chemo I had two angels by my sideHelen Centanni and Inez Glapion.  They would NOT allow me to do chemo alone.  (Inez fed me breakfast and kept me up through treatments.  Helen delivered gifts to all of my fellow chemo patients like the Easter Bunny!)  And, Deborah (Kane) came down to NOLA from San Francisco so she could support me through chemo #4.  This is your regional president. Who does this?  Goes to show you, family isnt just the people who share your blood and last name. 

Throughout chemo they test your blood routinely to make sure your blood count is goodthat youre strong enough to continue.  Luckily Im blessed with good geneswe never had to slow or stop chemo.  My blood work always came back good, excellent, amazing.  And, by the time we took the final blood work Dr. Seiler told me all levels were back to normal; it didnt even look like I had chemotherapy.  YES! 

Whats next? 
Rest for a few weekswell, rest and work. Mid-June Id start the next adventure in cancer care--radiation therapy.  Dr. Stolier told me, I know who Dr. Seiler uses for radiation therapyDr. Ellen Zakris.  Shes extraordinary.  He was right.  On the first day I met her she hugged meand spent forty five minutes explaining the impact on my body.  She was so smart, generous, kind.  After figuring out the best position for treating my breast & the deep position of the bed left by the tumorwe started treatment33 of em.  Id go every weekday at 11:20am.  Id have my morning show meetings with Bob or Tommy and Susango to radiation and come back to work in time for my Think Tank meetings with Helen and Garland.  It was all good, until the final two weeks.  Yes, I got what felt like a severe sun burnmy breast blew upthen, the burn beneath the breast.  It felt like a rope burn.  I had to put a sock stuffed with gauze between my skin and my clothes.  But, I never stopped working.  

Its been about six weeks since my last treatment and Im doing good. But, like chemo, the effects of radiation therapy are cumulative.  It hit me like a brick about 2 weeks agothe exhaustion from 33 radiation treatments.  I took off last Friday and literally slept until 4 oclock in the afternoon.   And, all weekend my body just wanted to REST.  Im trying real hard to listen.

What is the long-term prognosis?
The prognosis is as good as it gets for someone diagnosed with cancer.  We caught it early.  The tumor was small.  It was completely removed.  The two things they look for are cancer in the lymph nodes and cancer in the margins around the mass.  They found neither.  We also had a bone scan of my entire body; there were no signs of cancer.  I am blessed.  And, thank God for big boobs!  As Dr. Stolier said, Because you have generous breasts, we can save the breast and do a lumpectomy.  What science has shown in the past 40 years is this--your chances for remaining cancer free or having a recurrence are equal 50/50 whether you have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy.  I was willing to do whatever he told me to do.  Surrender.

Have you done anything extra or different now that you are a breast cancer survivor, using your position at the station to raise awareness or raise money?
I just learned today that the New Orleans Saints want me to be their honorary captain at the Saints/Colts game at home in the Mercedes Benz Superdome on October 23rd.   Its the only home game in October for the Who Dat Nation.  I will be honored to represent anyone/everyone who has breast cancer, had breast cancer or helped someone battle this evil disease. 

The toughest thing about getting diagnosed with breast cancer was telling the people you love.  I wept for them as they wept for me.  But, hope is what gets us through.  We have to find a cure. 

Diane says "One in eight women gets breast cancer. Why not me?"
Send Diane your private thoughts HERE or leave your comments below


The gentleman walking Diane in is Chris Claus, VP/GM of Entercom NOLA.

Beauty & the Beast - bald guys video (Garland Robinette - talk host for WWL), Andy Holt (then programmer for WLMG & WKBU), Tommy Tucker (host on WWL), Jim McCutcheon (Production Director ETM NOLA), Jay Vice (Digital Content Manager for 

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