Charese Fruge’ Talks To Patti Diaz

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on April 12, 2022 

Patti Diaz was born and raised in El Paso. She started in radio in 1992 and has been with IHeartMedia since 1994, having just celebrated her 28th year. She has served as PD and Morning Show Host for Rhythmic station KPRR-FM for the past 15 years and was elevated to Vice President of Programming for El Paso in 2020 which included Programming and on-air duties for Country station KHEY-FM. On the weekends, she covers remotes and special appearances for all six stations in the market.

For Patti, her journey in radio began early. “There were very specific moments I had with radio when I was in high school/college that ignited the flame of passion I have for this industry,” she explains. “During my senior year of high school, I applied to be a guest DJ on a local Rock station. My friend and I were selected and received very positive feedback. The Program Director for the station asked if he could keep my number as a backup just in case they needed another guest host for future shows. Of course, I said YES!”

“That same year I was a guest on a local Spanish language station and had memorized all my lines, in Spanish. The on-air DJs were quite surprised at how good my Spanish speaking skills were and that interview turned into a light bulb moment for me: Perception is reality,” says Diaz. “I could make people perceive things about me, and although it may not be 100% truth, which is their reality. This light bulb moment sparked my imagination. I could use my words to paint a picture.”

“After high school, I went away to college in San Antonio and came back to El Paso within a year. It turns out, college was not for me,” says Diaz. “A friend of mine in El Paso was working for a local radio station and gave me a tour of the building one night. After meeting the night jock, I told my friend I was interested in learning more about radio but, was only available during his shift from 7p to midnight. Within a few days I was volunteering with the station. Thirty days later I was offered a full-time job. FYI, that night jock and I are still good friends till this day.”

One of Patti’s biggest accomplishments during her career has been connecting with her listeners on a local level. “I am most proud of utilizing the platform radio offers to help members of our community. Whether it’s bringing a smile to their face when they win a prize, providing an experience that they will always remember, assisting with fundraising efforts for families in need, or being that voice of calm and reason when there is concerning news to be shared over the airwaves,” she says. “El Paso was the site of a mass shooting in 2019 and I will never forget the collective holding of breath our city had as we awaited information. From relaying information on the airwaves as it became available, providing water and snacks to people waiting in line to give blood, grieving with our community on the radio, trying to be part of the healing process and subsequently meeting and becoming friends with victims, who I discovered were listeners. I am most proud of being part of #ElPasoStrong.”

As far as rising to Patti’s current position, she credits her success mostly to her ability to focus. “I am a ‘one goal at a time’ kind of person,” she says. “I set a goal, accomplish it, and then set another goal. I started out in radio as a volunteer with the goal to just get hired. Once that happened, I set out to make it onto the morning show. From morning show to PD, PD to OM and so on. I guess the next logical step for me now is taking over some Regional responsibilities.”

Patti’s rise to the top has not come without its challenges. “I’ll be honest, one of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome is proving that a woman can be in a leadership role,” she says. “True story, when I took over programming duties for KPRR-F, I was asked by another woman in management, ‘Who is going to host the orning show?’ When I told her it would be me, she said, in front of the entire sales department, ‘A woman cannot be the host of a morning show on the radio. No one will listen.’ That was fifteen years ago. But her words empowered me. Tell me I can’t do something and watch me do it.”

“Luckily, I am currently in an environment where I feel supported by my Local, Regional and Division leaders,” says Diaz. “Moving forward, I would like to expand the reach of the morning show into other markets, take on regional programming responsibilities and continue to grow my career with IHeartMedia.”

“My advice for women who want to make it in the radio industry: Eliminate the words ‘I can’t’ from your vocabulary. You CAN do whatever you want. Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness. When in doubt, leave it out. And radio is FUN! If you’re not having fun, then find a way to turn in around.”

I asked Patti what people would be most surprised to find out about her. She had some help with this one. “I asked my 14-year-old son Robert to answer this question for me…. he said ‘that Patti Diaz and my mom are the exact same person. It’s not like you’re somebody else when you’re not on the radio.”

What keeps Patti up at night? “Promotions keep my mind racing at night…what’s the best way to execute this contest? How can I make it more engaging?” she says. But she finds a way to balance things. “My spare time is for family and friends. They keep me grounded and humble. I try and find things that we can do as a group. Road trips, vacations, or trying new restaurants and entertainment venues in the area,” says Diaz. And she has her guilty pleasures too. “I just wrapped up Season 2 of ‘Bridgerton’ on Netflix. I also try and watch every Oscar nominated movie for Picture of the Year. I still have two more to go from this year’s nominees. ‘Friends’ and ‘Schitts Creek’ are my go-to for binge watching the entire series over and over.”

With her new responsibilities, Patti will be busy for sure moving forward. “In 2022 I am really looking forward to diving into the world of Country radio,” she says. “The format, labels, artists, and listeners have been so welcoming! One of my goals for KHEY-F is an artist showcase in the market! I miss organizing live shows!!!”

Follow Patti Diaz: PATTIDIAZONAIR on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/YouTube and PATTIDIAZRADIO on Tik Tok.