Terry Gross

Host, Fresh Air

Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air's interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by host and executive producer Terry Gross' unique approach. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says The San Francisco Chronicle.

Gross isn't afraid to ask tough questions, but she sets an atmosphere in which her guests volunteer the answers rather than surrender them. What often puts those guests at ease is Gross' understanding of their work. "Anyone who agrees to be interviewed must decide where to draw the line between what is public and what is private. But the line can shift, depending on who is asking the questions," observes Gross. "What puts someone on guard isn't necessarily the fear of being 'found out.' It sometimes is just the fear of being misunderstood."

Gross began her radio career in 1973 at public radio station WBFO in Buffalo, New York. There she hosted and produced several arts, women's and public affairs programs, including This Is Radio, a live, three-hour magazine program that aired daily. Two years later, she joined the staff of WHYY-FM in Philadelphia as producer and host of Fresh Air, then a local, daily interview and music program. In 1985, WHYY-FM launched a weekly half-hour edition of Fresh Air with Terry Gross, which was distributed nationally by NPR. Since 1987, a daily, one-hour national edition of Fresh Air has been produced by WHYY-FM; it now airs on more than 450 stations. Compilation CDs of Fresh Air are available in the NPR Shop.

Gross's book All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians and Artists was published by Hyperion in 2004.

In addition to her work on Fresh Air, Gross has served as guest host for the weekday and weekend editions of NPR's All Things Considered. Her appearances include a spot as co-anchor of the PBS show, The Great Comet Crash, produced by WHYY-TV, a short series of interviews for WGBH-TV/Boston, and an appearance as guest-host for CBS Nightwatch.

In 1994, Fresh Air received a Peabody Award, which cited Gross for her "probing questions and unusual insights." In 1999, America Women in Radio and Television gave Gross a Gracie Award in the category of National Network Radio Personality. In 2003, Gross received the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, for advancing the "growth, quality and positive image of radio." She has received honorary degrees from Princeton University, Haverford College and Drexel University. She received a bachelor's degree in English and an M. ED. in Communications from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Her alma mater awarded her an honorary degree in 2007 and a 1993 Distinguished Alumni Award. Gross was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.

In addition to personally taking care of newborn kittens, Hannah Shaw, known as the Kitten Lady on social media, consults with shelters and cities on homeless cat management.

The saxophonist and clarinetist, a student of Sidney Bechet and a specialist in early styles of the music, died Aug. 4 at the age of 91. He spoke with Terry Gross in 1988, excerpted here. (Hear the full interview through the Fresh Air archive.)

Janet Mock remembers when she saw the documentary Paris is Burning for the first time. She was in 10th grade, living in Hawaii, and had already socially transitioned her gender identity. She was about to embark on her medical transition.

"My friend had a VHS that she got from another friend," Mock says. "It was kind of like this little magic ticket that was passed down to a bunch of us."

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The Koch brothers, Charles and David, are famous for the wealth they've amassed through Koch Industries - together they're worth more than $100 billion - and for creating a powerful political influence network. The network is designed to amplify messages pushed by Koch Industries, support legislation that favors Koch's needs and goals and defeat legislation that stands in the way of Koch profits. Koch has used this network to prevent or try to dismantle regulations that affect the businesses.

Sister Helen Prejean is best known for her 1993 memoir, Dead Man Walking, about her role as a spiritual adviser to a convicted killer on death row. The story was adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Prejean has accompanied six prisoners to their executions and has been at the forefront of activism against the death penalty.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross. Today's show is devoted to Toni Morrison, one of the most celebrated writers of our time, who died Monday. She was 88 years old.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Jia Tolentino's strict Christian upbringing backfired.

"I am sure that you don't send your kid to Christian school for 12 years and hope that they'll do what I did: Which is have The New Yorker publish 7,000 words about how the church led me to love doing MDMA and love rap music," she says.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. We're going to listen back to an interview with one of America's foremost documentary filmmakers, D.A. Pennebaker. He died last Thursday at age 94. When presenting Pennebaker with an Oscar for lifetime achievement in 2012, Michael Moore called him one of the filmmakers who, quote, "invented nothing less than the modern documentary," unquote. Pennebaker was a pioneer in creating the documentary form known as cinema verite, which did away with scripting, narration and staged scenes.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, June was the planet's hottest month on record. Today we're going to listen to Terry's interview with self-described conservation photographer Paul Nicklen whose beautiful photos document some of the most dramatic consequences of climate change in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Before Wanda Sykes became a comic, she worked as a procurement officer for the National Security Agency and had top security clearance. But she always loved telling jokes, and when a local radio station sponsored a talent show that included a comedy category, she decided to audition.

"They put me on the show ... [and] I fell in love with it," she says. "I love doing stand-up. ... That's where I feel like I can be free."

Count Laura Lippman among those who take issue with President Trump's recent tweets characterizing Baltimore as a "disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess." The crime novelist, who lives in Baltimore, says the president's comments represent a "basic disrespect" for city residents.

There are quadrillions of insects on earth. Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, a professor of conservation biology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, estimates they outnumber human beings by a factor of 200 million to one.

But as awe-inspiring as that figure seems, the world's insect population is actually falling, Sverdrup-Thygeson notes.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

From WHYY in Philadelphia, this is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, in for Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RANKY TANKY")

RANKY TANKY: (Singing) Who is the greatest? We are the greatest. Are you sure? Yeah. Positive? Yeah. Definitive? Yeah. All right. All right.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. In a new article in The New Yorker, titled "The Case Of Al Franken," my guest Jane Mayer investigates the accusations of sexual misconduct that led Franken to resign under pressure from the Senate. She's found that the story told by Franken's chief accuser, Leeann Tweeden, is full of holes. Mayer also looked into the accusations against Franken made by seven other women who came forward after Tweeden.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. We're going to listen back to an interview with Paul Krassner, who was a prominent figure of the 60s counterculture. He died Sunday at the age of 87.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Breakthroughs in heart medicine, including surgical procedures, devices and medications, have changed how various forms of heart disease are treated and enabled many people to live longer lives. We're going to hear about some of those new developments from Haider Warraich, author of the new book "State Of The Heart: Exploring The History, Science, And Future Of Cardiac Disease." We're also going to talk about cholesterol and blood pressure.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens died yesterday at age 99. We're going to listen back to our interview with Stevens.

When TV critic Emily Nussbaum was growing up in the '70s, she says television wasn't something to be analyzed, criticized and picked apart.

"Even people who loved to watch TV would put it down," she recalls. "It was considered, at best, a kind of delicious-but-bad-for-you treat, and, at worst, more like chain-smoking, like something you did by yourself that messed up your brain."

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROSS: If you know the show "Fiddler On The Roof," this music will sound familiar. But these lyrics won't.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing in Yiddish).

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The Supreme Court handed down two decisions at the end of their session last month that could have a big impact on the outcome of elections in the States. The court ruled it had no power to intervene when states use partisan gerrymandering to draw maps for electoral districts, saying it was an issue for state legislatures and state courts. And in a related case, the court ruled that the Trump administration could not add a citizenship question to the census.

In 2015, Travis Rieder, a medical bioethicist with Johns Hopkins University's Berman Institute of Bioethics, was involved in a motorcycle accident that crushed his left foot. In the months that followed, he underwent six different surgeries as doctors struggled first to save his foot and then to reconstruct it.

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