I've had the pleasure of getting to know Diane Dimond, acclaimed journalist and author, recently. We enjoy spirited games of "Words with Friends" on Facebook. She was kind and generous enough to agree to an interview. Thank you, Diane!!
I started in the business in Albuquerque, NM. My best friend’s dad owned the local CBS radio and TV station and I got a job there answering the phones on the week-ends in high school. I naturally gravitated back to the newsroom because that’s where all the action was!
Ultimately, I became the morning newscaster on the radio – and in the afternoon I covered the cops beat. I won a big award (American Bar Assoc’n Silver Gavel Award) for revealing corruption within the local Sheriff’s Department – and THAT helped me get a job at National Public Radio in Washington, DC. I was the newscaster on the program, ‘All Things Considered’ for many years. Then, missing being a reporter (who wants to be stuck behind a desk, right?) I jumped to the RKO Radio Networks and became the Capitol Hill reporter. I also covered the White House, Pentagon, national political conventions – you name it. Stayed there about six years and then figured if I was ever going to try TV I better snap to it. I was 27 years old, a single mother and I was flabbergasted that WCBS-TV in New York offered me a job. I covered New Jersey for the station.
Next stop was a very short stint at Fox TV (it wasn’t even really a network then) where I did a pilot for a 60-minutes type show. That never got picked up but I was under contract so they put me on “A Current Affair” with Maury Povich. I liked the longer pieces I was able to produce there and when the boss jumped ship to launch “Hard Copy” he took me with him.
We spent most of the 90’s living in Hollywood, California. My husband (yes, I re-married) is a radio anchorman at CBS in New York - and when we moved to Ca. he worked for station KFWB. While at “Hard Copy”, in late 1993, I broke what was my biggest story: The Michael Jackson molestation case. I also got to travel the country interviewing crazy inmates like James Earl Ray, Kenneth Bianchi (Hillside Strangler), Pamela Smart, Richard Allen Davis and Jeffrey McDonald.
In the late 90’s Geraldo called me and lured me to come back East to do a nightly newscast with him on CNBC called “Upfront Tonight.” After two years he lost interest and NBC transferred me to MSNBC where I anchored day-time hours, hosted a crime show called “Missing Persons” and ultimately was assigned to cover Al Gore during the disputed Presidential race. (I stood outside the Vice Presidents mansion in DC for 33 days waiting for that damned chad recount!)
After that I was exhausted and decided to take some time off. The only thing I did was a little freelance at Court TV, sitting in for Catherine Crier when she took time off. Shortly thereafter the tragedy of 9-11 happened – and I didn’t work for any bona fide news department anymore!! It was maddening. But my old acquaintance Roger Ailes called me and asked if I would come fill in as an anchor on Fox News as he was sending all of his anchors overseas to cover the American response to the 9-11 attacks. I did double duty at Court TV and Fox for about a year. Then Court TV hired me – and well, you know the rest. It was there I re-broke the Michael Jackson molestation story. I had a duel contract with Court TV and NBC (The Today Show & Dateline) during the run-up to the trial and for about a year beyond. You can see my full resume at my web site – www.dianedimond.net
Who were some of your favorite correspondents and anchors that you’ve worked with along your career?
As a kid in Albuquerque I was inspired watching Liz Trotta cover the Vietnam War. I thought….wow! A woman as a war correspondent, I’d like to do that! Interestingly, when I went to Fox after 9-11 I got to meet Liz and she and I are fast friends. I’ve worked with so many great people … Josh Mankewicz, Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie (we covered the Jackson trial together) – Mike Wallace and Douglas Edwards gave me wonderful pep talks along the way. So did Pauline Fredricks at NPR (she was the UN correspondent) Brian Williams and I were quite a pair when he covered New Jersey for the CBS station of Philly and I covered for WCBS in New York. He is hysterically funny off the air. Matt Lauer was always very nice to me – for a time we had the same agent. Ann Curry is a magnificently kind person and I hated to see what happened to her at the Today Show.
You have a weekly column – how do you come up with topics? Is it difficult to write every week?
Sometimes I get a bit stumped for a topic but not very often. I write about things that raise my hackles or touch my soul somehow. I like to write columns that, after they’ve been read, the reader says, “Gee, I didn’t realize that!” or “I never thought about that topic that way…” We are a society of laws and rules and when those start to crumble, or if there is unfairness in the system I think we need to pay attention to that. Note: the Halloween column which will be posted this Monday or the TSA column I wrote recently or the one about the young woman who is doing LIFE IN PRISON for accidentally killing four people. I like to introduce people to others they might never know about – like the Mother who fought for the right to see her son’s rapist/murderer be put to death (can you imagine that?!) or the woman who dedicated her life to trying to get the hundreds of thousands of old DNA rape kits tested after she’d learned her evidence kit had just sat there for 7 years! There are so many great crime and justice stories out there….
What made you want to become an author?I had so much information crammed into my head about Michael Jackson – from 1993 to 2003 (when cops raided Neverland for the 2nd time) – that I just had to dis-gorge it from my brain! Plus, no one had ever written a non-laudatory book about Jackson. I wanted to put everything I’d learned into some perspective. The book, “Cirque du Salahi” came out of me getting pissed off that the media started and then kept up such a stupid, silly for so long. I had covered the White House. I knew you couldn’t “crash” the White House. So I did an autopsy of the media coverage and unmasked the whole saga as being over hyped and senseless. (it started with 2 gossip columnists at the Washington Post on a slow Thanksgiving holiday – and all other media outlets pounced on it because, well….hey – it was the WASHINGTON POST reporting it and there was hardly any other news)
Did you experience any difficulties getting your first book published? Any challenges?Yes. The Jackson fans wanted to kill me already (seriously) because I dared to report what the police thought their idol had done. Publishers did not want to venture into anti-celebrity waters – but finally Simon & Shuster/Atria books bought it. The fans think I made a mint off the book. But, sadly, I did not. The biggest challenge was trying to finish the book while I was still covering the Jackson trial. I would work at the Santa Maria, Ca courthouse all day – then go to my hotel room and write until I, literally, fell asleep at the computer.
P.S. to this day I still get about half a dozen death threats a month from Jackson fans worldwide. Most are young kids who have no idea what the truth about MJ was.
How long does it take you to write a book?Depends. I was so fired up over the stupidity of the White House Gate Crasher saga I think it took only about 6 weeks….and some of that time was spent doing research with the Salahis at their home in Virginia. P.s. – despite what the haters say the Salahi’s did NOT have any editorial input into the book and they got no money from it….or me. Ever.
What things do you love & hate about writing?
I love the feeling when I finish a piece. I hate the fact that sitting so long hurts my bad back.
From personal experience, I know you’re a mean “Words with Friends” player. What else do you like to do when you’re not writing?I love to garden, tend my roses and my vegetables. I love spending time with my daughter and my three grandchildren. (Jenna and her husband and kids live about 2 hours north of us) I love to cook, listen to live jazz and go to comedy clubs. Believe me after writing what I write about all the time – one needs to take time out to LAUGH! Besides Words With Friends I find I’m very competitive in all sorts of games – we have a pool table (I usually win) and a dart board (hubby Michael usually wins) in the house. We have mean Monopoly games with the kids…
Oh, and I love my two fat cats, Miles and May.
Any suggestions or advice to help those of us that want to become published authors?Take a class or course in how to write a good book proposal. Publishers are so shy these days about buying ANY new work – they are that spooked about the E-book craze. So, if you want to sell what you write you have to sell your idea FIRST via the book proposal. My literary manger, Sharlene Martin, has written a book called, “Publish Your Non-Fiction Book” you might want to pick up.
Do you have another book in the works?
Not one that I’ve been able to sell.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor or inspiration?
Honestly, I just do what I do. I don’t try to pattern myself after others. Love John Grisham’s writing but I will never be able to write like him. Scott Turow,
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
My pals Stacy Dittrich and John DeDakis
When reading for fun, what are your favorite genres?
Crime, crime and crime …. Oh, and I just finished “50 Shades of Gray”