Terry Gross (born February 14, 1951) is the host and co-executive producer of Fresh Air, an interview-based radio show produced by WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and distributed throughout the United States by NPR. She has been in this position since 1975 and has conducted thousands of interviews over her 42 years at the job.
Gross has won praise over the years for her low-key and friendly yet often probing interview style and for the diversity of her guests. She has a reputation for researching her guests' work largely the night before an interview, often asking them unexpected questions about their early careers.
Terry Gross is the second child of Anne and Irving Gross. She grew up in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Her father worked in a family millinery business where he sold fabric to milliners. Her mother was a stenographer. She grew up in a Jewish family. She said that her family lived in an apartment near Senior's Restaurant, a local landmark. When she was young, people would often ask where Gross came from, assuming that her lack of a heavy Brooklyn accent meant she grew up elsewhere. Gross' parents were first-generation Americans, with family roots in eastern Europe. She has an older brother, Leon J. Gross, who works as a psychometric consultant.
In 1968, Gross graduated from Sheepshead Bay High School. She earned a bachelor's degree in English and a Master of Education degree in communications from the University at Buffalo. While in college, she married her high-school boyfriend who attended the same university; they subsequently divorced. She took a year off from school to hitchhike cross country.
In 1972, Gross started teaching 8th grade at an inner-city public junior high school in Buffalo. She said she was ill-equipped for the job, especially at establishing discipline, and was fired after only six weeks.
Gross began her radio career in 1973 at WBFO, an NPR CPB-funded college station, then broadcasting from the Main Street Campus of the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, where she started out as a volunteer on a show called Woman Power, then co-hosted This is Radio. Typical subjects of these shows were women's rights and public affairs.
In 1975, she moved to WHYY-FM in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to host and produce Fresh Air, which was a local interview program at the time. In 1985, Fresh Air with Terry Gross went national, being distributed weekly by NPR. It became a daily program two years later. Gross typically conducts the interviews from the WHYY-FM studios in Philadelphia, with her subject at the studio of a local NPR affiliate convenient to them connected via telephone or satellite feed. For the majority of these conversations, Gross is not face-to-face with her subjects. Gross creates a daily show that is an hour long, usually includes two interviews, and is distributed to over 190 NPR stations. The show reaches an audience of millions of daily listeners. Many of the producers and staff on Gross' show have been with her since the late 1970s to 1980s.
She appeared as a guest-voice on The Simpsons as herself, in the episode "The Debarted." During the spring 1998 semester, Gross was a guest lecturer at University of California-Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.
In 2015 she appeared on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me and played the game "Not My Job," answering questions about Hulk Hogan.
The San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Gross' interviews are "a remarkable blend of empathy, warmth, genuine curiosity, and sharp intelligence." Gross prides herself on preparation; prior to interviewing guests, she reads their books, watches their movies, and/or listens to their CDs. The Boston Phoenix opined that "Terry Gross... is almost certainly the best cultural interviewer in America, and one of the best all-around interviewers, period. Her smart, thoughtful questioning pushes her guests in unlikely directions. Her interviews are revelatory in a way other people's seldom are."
Gross said that when she first started working in radio, her voice was much higher with anxiety. She said she has worked to relax her voice and to a more natural, deep tone. Much has been written about Gross' voice, and the precision of her use of language has been the subject of much analysis.
There have been some occasions when interviews have not gone smoothly. Gross asked Nancy Reagan about the lack of funding and mishandling of HIV/AIDS by her husband, President Ronald Reagan, which was not well received. At least a few interview subjects have exited their interviews early, including Lou Reed, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, Faye Dunaway, and Monica Lewinsky.
Four notable examples are:
- February 4, 2002: Kiss singer and bassist Gene Simmons. The interview began with Gross not pronouncing Simmons' original Hebrew last name to his liking. Simmons dismissively replied to her that she pronounced without "flavor" because she had a "Gentile mouth"; Gross responded that she is Jewish. In the interview, Gross asked Simmons about his studded codpiece, to which Simmons replied, "It holds in my manhood, otherwise it would be too much for you to take," adding, "If you want to welcome me with open arms, I'm afraid you're also going to have to welcome me with open legs," to which Gross replied, "That's a really obnoxious thing to say." Unlike most Fresh Air guests, Simmons refused to grant permission for the interview to be made available on the NPR website. The interview appears in Gross' book All I Did Was Ask, and unauthorized transcripts and audio of the complete original interview are known to exist.
- October 8, 2003: Fox News television host Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly walked out of the interview because of what he considered biased questions, creating a media controversy fed by the ongoing presidential campaign. Toward the end of the interview, O'Reilly asked Gross if she had been as tough on Al Franken, who had appeared on the program two weeks earlier. Gross responded, "No, I wasn't... we had a different interview." Gross was later criticized by then NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin for "an interview that was, in the end, unfair to O'Reilly" and that "it felt as though Terry Gross was indeed 'carrying Al Franken's water.' " Dvorkin described Gross' interviewing tactic of reading a quote critical of O'Reilly after he had walked out of the room as "unethical and unfair". Gross was later supported by an NPR colleague, Mike Pesca, who contended that O'Reilly did have the opportunity to respond to a criticism that Gross read to O'Reilly levelled by People magazine, but that he defaulted by prematurely abandoning the interview. On September 24, 2004, Gross and O'Reilly met again on O'Reilly's television show, where Gross assured O'Reilly, "no matter what you ask me, I'm staying for the entire interview."
- February 9, 2005: Lynne Cheney, conservative author and the wife of then-Vice President Dick Cheney. The initial focus of the interview was on Cheney's latest history book, but Gross moved on to questions about Cheney's lesbian daughter Mary and her opinion of the Bush administration's opposition to same-sex marriage. Cheney declined to comment on her daughter's sexuality, but repeatedly stated her opposition to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which was being endorsed by President George W. Bush. Cheney declined to discuss the matter further. When Gross brought the interview back to issues of gay rights, Cheney again refused to comment. According to producers, Cheney had been warned that Gross would ask about politics and current events.
- June 12, 2014: Hillary Clinton. The former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate was questioned about her shifting support for same-sex marriage and whether her changing opinion was a political calculation. When Clinton answered that her view on the issue had "evolved", Gross pressed for a more detailed answer. This led to a tense exchange in which Gross explained that her persistent questions were an attempt to clarify Clinton's reasoning for the shift in her viewpoint, to which Clinton responded, "No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify. I think you are trying to say that I used to be opposed, and now I am in favor, and that I did it for political reasons. And that's just flat wrong."
While she was in college in the late 1960s, Gross was married for about a year to a man she knew from high school, with whom she had been living for a while. Gross said she dropped out of college in her sophomore year to hitchhike with him across the country before they were married. She proceeded to obtain a divorce by the time she started her radio career in 1973.
Gross has been married to Francis Davis, jazz critic of The Village Voice, since 1994. They have been together since 1978. Davis is Catholic, and Gross is Jewish, but neither is practicing. They reside in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and share a passion for music. They have no children, which Gross has said was a deliberate choice on their part.
Works and publications
- Gross, Terry. All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists. New York: Hyperion, 2004. ISBN 978-1-401-30010-4, ISBN 978-0-316-29123-1 OCLC 54459942, 56951611, 883328360
- Gross, Terry. Fresh Air on Stage and Screen. [Washington, D.C.]: National Public Radio, 1998, 1996. 2 sound cassettes. ISBN 978-0-966-46051-3 OCLC 41434003, 52244128
- Tape 1. Mel Brooks, Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Ed Harris, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Mercedes McCambridge, Wallace Shawn/André Gregory
- Tape 2. André Braugher, Divine, Faye Dunaway, Clint Eastwood, Dennis Franz, Audrey Hepburn, Dennis Hopper, Samuel L. Jackson, Harvey Keitel, Tracey Ullman
- Gross, Terry. Fresh Air on Stage and Screen. Vol. 2. [Washington, D.C.]: National Public Radio, 2000. 3 CDs. ISBN 978-0-966-46053-7 OCLC 49194657, 780289464, 883328360
- David Chase, John Cusack, Catherine Deneuve, Peter Fonda, Gene Hackman, Uta Hagen, Werner Herzog, Dustin Hoffman, Anjelica Huston, Samuel L. Jackson, David Mamet, Bill Murray, Diane Keaton, Al Pacino, Sidney Poitier, Clarence Williams III, James Woods
- Gross, Terry. Laughs: Fresh Air with Terry Gross [Terry Gross Interviews 21 Stars of Comedy]. Philadelphia, PA: WHYY, 2003, 2004. 3 CDs. ISBN 978-1-565-11919-2 OCLC 317883413, 56913808
- Disc 1: Ahmed Ahmed & Maz Jobrani, Al Franken, Bill Maher, Conan O'Brien, Richard Pryor, Martin Short, Tracey Ullman
- Disc 2: Richard Belzer, Drew Carey, Larry David, Carol Leifer, Jon Lovitz, Colin Quinn, Chris Rock
- Disc 3: Phyllis Diller, Jay Leno, Jackie Mason, Bob Newhart, Joan Rivers, Henny Youngman
- Gross, Terry, et al. Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Terry Gross Interviews 11 Stars of Stage & Screen. [Minneapolis, Minn.]: HighBridge, 2007, 2014. 2 CDs. ISBN 978-1-598-87069-5 OCLC 893037211
- Dave Chappelle, George Clooney, Stephen Colbert, David Cronenberg, Tim Curry, Jodie Foster, Lisa Kudrow, CCH Pounder, Thelma Schoonmaker, Billy Bob Thornton, Robin Williams
- Gross, Terry. Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Faith, Reason & Doubt. [Minneapolis, Minn.]: Highbridge Co, 2008. 3 CDs. ISBN 978-1-598-87533-1 OCLC 154744053, 893037213
- Disc 1. Karen Armstrong, Pastor John Hagee, Tim LaHaye, Julia Sweeney, Michael Wex
- Disc 2. Richard Dawkins, Francis Collins, Barbara Brown Taylor, Steven Waldman, Shalom Auslander
- Disc 3. Akbar Ahmed, James H. Cone, Khaled Abou El Fadl, Reynolds Price, Bishop Gene Robinson
- Gross, Terry. Fresh Air with Terry Gross Funny People : More Interviews with Stars of Comedy. Minneapolis, Minn: Highbridge, 2010. 2 CDs. ISBN 978-1-598-87897-4 OCLC 464583118
- 2012: Birbiglia, Mike. Fresh Air 2: 2 Fresh 2 Furious. (short film)
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- ^ Burton, Susan (21 October 2015). "Terry Gross and the Art of Opening Up: The "Fresh Air" host's 40-year, 13,000-interview master class in conversation". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
- ^ a b c d Leibovich, Lori (22 June 1998). "Turning the tables on Terry Gross". Salon. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
- ^ a b Kennedy, John H. (6 May 1997). "Terry Gross Makes Conversation Seem Like a Breeze on 'Fresh Air'". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ a b Phillips, Michael (26 September 2004). "Voicestruck in Philly by Terry Gross". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ Gross, Terry (18 October 2010). "Spending The Night With Sleepwalker Mike Birbiglia". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ a b c d e f g h Maron, Marc (21 May 2015). "Episode 604 - Terry Gross". WTF with Marc Maron. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
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- ^ "Gross, Terry". Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Pennsylvania State University. Archived from the original on 6 August 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
- ^ Gross, PhD, Leon J. (September 2012). "Certification Examination: Summary of September 2012 Administration" (PDF). American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ a b "Terry Gross: Producer and Host of National Public Radio's "Fresh Air"". Seattle Arts & Lectures. 24 April 2001. Archived from the original on 18 August 2002. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ a b Jesse Thorn. "The Turnaround: Terry Gross". maximumfun.org. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
- ^ a b "Welcome to WBFO". archive.org. 3 February 1998. Archived from the original on 3 February 1998. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
- ^ Yan, Eleanor (9 April 2000). "NPR Host Breathes Fresh Air Into Talk Radio : Gross "Finds The Storytellers Behind The Stories"". The Morning Call. Allentown, Pennsylvania. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
- ^ "Not My Job: Terry Gross Gets Quizzed On Terry Gene Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan)". Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!. July 11, 2015. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
- ^ "Inside WBUR: Terry Gross". WBUR. 3 June 2007. Archived from the original on 2 January 2008. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
- ^ a b Goldman, Andrew (20 July 2012). "Can 'Fresh Air' Kill Plants?". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ Bergstrom, Bill (18 January 2001). "Queen of questions". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ Marcus, Greil (16 March 1998). "One Step Back; Public Radio Hosts Drop In and Maybe Stay Too Long". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ van Zuylen-Wood, Simon (21 December 2012). "Terry Gross: The Queen of "Like". How the NPR host saved America's dumbest word". Philadelphia. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ a b c Stewart, David (October 4, 1999). "Terry Gross: engaged with subject and listeners". Current. American University School of Communication. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ Leibovich, Lori (June 22, 1998). "Turning the tables on Terry Gross". Salon.com. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
- ^ Gross, Terry (4 February 2002). "Leader and Bassist of the Band Kiss, Gene Simmons". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
- ^ Gross, Terry (4 February 2002). "Terry Gross interview with Gene Simmons". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
- ^ Gross, Terry (4 February 2002). "Transcript of Gene Simmons and Terry Gross, host of NPR's Fresh Air". Fresh Air. NPR. Archived from the original on 30 October 2005. Retrieved 30 October 2005.
- ^ Gross, Terry (8 October 2003). "Bill O'Reilly". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
- ^ Dvorkin, Jeffrey A. (15 October 2003). "Gross vs. O'Reilly: Culture Clash on NPR". NPR Ombudsman. NPR. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
- ^ a b Gladstone, Brooke; Pesca, Mike (23 June 2006). "Watching You Watching Me: Jeffrey Dvorkin". On The Media. NPR. Archived from the original on 1 October 2006. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ O'Reilly, Bill (22 September 2004). "Terry Gross and Bill O'Reilly: Round Two". The O'Reilly Factor. Fox News. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ Gross, Terry (9 February 2006). "Lynne Cheney, Author and Historian". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
- ^ Dvorkin, Jeffrey A. (15 February 2005). "A Week of Insults on NPR". NPR Ombudsman. NPR. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
- ^ Petri, Alexandra (12 June 2014). "Hillary Clinton's strangely awkward Terry Gross interview on gay marriage". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
- ^ Horowitz, Shel (April 1999). "Interviewing the Interviewer: An Evening with Fresh Air's Terry Gross". Frugal Fun. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ Gewertz, Ken (11 October 2001). "NPR's most seductive voice speaks". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- ^ "Proust Questionnaire - Terry Gross". Vanity Fair. September 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- ^ Gross, Terry (11 June 2003). "Actor B.D. Wong". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved 3 September 2008.
- ^ Keaveny, Tami (24 September 2013). "Off the air and on the record with NPR's Terry Gross". C-Ville Weekly. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- ^ "President Obama Awards the Arts & Humanities Medal". The White House. September 22, 2016. Archived from the original on September 23, 2016. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
- ^ "CPB Names Terry Gross 2003 Murrow Award Recipient". Corporation for Public Broadcasting (Press release). 16 May 2003. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
- ^ "President Obama to Award 2015 National Humanities Medals".
- ^ Gannes, Liz (11 May 2012). "The Secret Life of NPR's Terry Gross (Video)". All Things D. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
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