Monday through Friday, beginning at 5 a.m., the smooth voice of WWNO-FM’s Diane Mack begins to gently ease thousands of sleepy New Orleans area listeners into their daily routines.

Mack’s distinctive delivery style made its on-air debut here in 1982 when she joined WDSU-TV as a newscaster. After being laid off by the TV station in ’90, she took a year’s breather, then became a part-timer at WWNO, the University of New Orleans-based affiliate of National Public Radio.

Full-time at the lakefront station since 1993, the Loyola University communications graduate is much more than WWNO’s early morning greeter; over the years she has been the local host of NPR’s flagship news programs, hosted a classical music shift and written and produced interviews for coverage of Tulane University’s Friends of Music concert series. She is also the award-winning producer of “Inside the Arts,” the station’s series on the cultural arts.

Whatever her venue, Mack has a zeal for being prepared to do her job and a talent for getting people to tell her their stories.

“People are kind of distant, worry about what you might ask them,” she says. “To get people to relax, I think, is an art form. It’s a delicate balance, the dance you do to get people to relax and open up. That’s pretty much what I do every day – help people shine their light, tell their story. I just love it.”

The New Orleans native, who landed a job with a Lafayette TV station right out of college, says her dad, an educator, encouraged her to go into communications. Looking back, she says “Perhaps he saw something in me; he noticed that I liked to talk to people.”

Mack, a married 55-year-old with a teenage daughter, calls her four-hour morning gig, followed by afternoon research, “my morning flight. I get to do this flight with thousands of listeners in the New Orleans area, and we get to go around the world together. It’s really kind of cool.

“You have to keep moving forward and take the audience with you, giving them a reason to listen, telling them what’s next: newscasts, sports, weather, traffic,” Mack says. “You’ve got to remember this is early morning. You are gently nudging people with increasing intensity as the hours progress.”

The process, she admits, can be exhausting.

“You’ve got to know where you are going every minute because it can unravel if you’re not paying attention,” she says. “What I aim for is a seamless show. The local broadcast fits seamlessly into the national broadcast to give you a nice package with a pretty little bow.”

Mentor: Many share in this effort, especially my dad, Dr. John B. Mack III; my grandparents; great aunts; Bill Manschot and Ruth Young of Gateway Productions; and Dr. Marvel Sundin, former coordinator of the New Orleans school system’s Executive High School Internship Program.

Defining Moment: A unique experience in my senior year while participating in the New Orleans Executive High School Internship Program. I interned with Gateway Productions, a film and sound production company, owned and operated by Bill Manschot and Ruth Young. A film shoot, in the spring of 1974, required us to travel to Alabama. We were headed to the governor’s mansion to assist former NBC White House correspondent Nancy Dickerson. The subject: George Wallace and his bid for re-election. I knew, in that moment, I was headed for the excitement and adventure of a career in broadcast journalism.

Advice to Young Woman: Believe in yourself and follow your passion.

Goals: I work with a talented group of dedicated professionals at WWNO who share in a committed effort to support the cultural life of New Orleans and the metro area. It is my goal to continue to make a difference in the lives of our listeners by joining my colleagues in providing a quality broadcast service.

Favorite Things About What I Do: It is a blessing to work in my hometown in a profession that I love. I enjoy the energy of New Orleans and telling the many stories of our city’s creative artists through radio broadcasts on WWNO 89.9 FM.