Terry Gross

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Terry Gross
Terry Gross.jpg
Gross at the Georgia Tech Ferst Center for the Arts, in Atlanta,
November 2006
Born (1951-02-14) February 14, 1951 (age 64)
Show Fresh Air
Station(s) WHYY-FM, NPR
Country U.S.
Spouse(s) Francis Davis
Website Official website

Terry Gross (born February 14, 1951)[1] is the host and co-executive producer of Fresh Air, an interview format radio show produced by WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and distributed throughout the United States by NPR.

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.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Gross grew up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York, in a Jewish family.[3][4] She has a brother, Leon, who is five years older than she.[5] She earned a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in communications from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. She began a teaching career, but said that she was "totally unequipped" for the job, and was fired after only six weeks.[6]

Gross began her radio career in 1973 at WBFO, a public radio station in Buffalo, New York, where she had been volunteering. In 1975, she moved to WHYY-FM in Philadelphia 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.

She appeared as a guest-voice on The Simpsons as herself, in the episode "The Debarted".[7]

Interview style[edit]

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Gross' interviews are "a remarkable blend of empathy, warmth, genuine curiosity, and sharp intelligence."[8] 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."[6]

Difficult interviews[edit]

Gross has drawn added public attention following some occasions when interviews have taken a confrontational turn. Four notable examples are:

  • The February 4, 2002, interview with Kiss singer and bassist Gene Simmons began with Gross mispronouncing Simmons' original Hebrew last name. Simmons dismissively replied to her that she mispronounced it because she had a "Gentile mouth"; Gross responded that she is Jewish. She went on to question Simmons' views on the importance of money. In the interview, Gross begins a question, "So having sex with you," to which Simmons interjects, "You're going to have to stand in line." Gross questioned Simmons about his many liaisons. Later Simmons said, "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 online 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 exist.[9][10][11]
  • An October 8, 2003, interview with Fox News television host Bill O'Reilly, who walked out of the interview because of what he considered were 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 before O'Reilly. Gross responded, "No, I wasn't ... we had a different interview."[12] 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'."[13] 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".[14] 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.[14] On September 24, 2004, Gross and O'Reilly met again on O'Reilly's television show in which Gross assured O'Reilly "that no matter what you ask me, I'm staying for the entire interview."[15]
  • A February 9, 2005, interview of Lynne Cheney, conservative author and the wife of then–US 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.[16] 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. Later, 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 be asking about politics and current events.[17]
  • A June 2014 interview of Hillary Clinton, in which 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 I did it for political reasons. And that’s just flat wrong."[18]

Personal life[edit]

Gross was married early on in her life, but was in divorce proceedings by the time she started her radio career in 1973.[19][20][21] She is now married to Francis Davis, jazz critic of The Village Voice. The couple reside in Philadelphia. They have no children, and in an interview with B. D. Wong, Gross said this is a deliberate choice on their part.[22]

Gross wrote in the introduction to All I Did Was Ask: Conversations With Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists that she is sometimes asked whether she is a lesbian, due to short hair and the number of gay interviewees on Fresh Air.[23] In her interview with Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, she mentioned that she had lived in a commune.



  • Gross, Terry (2004). All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 1-4013-0010-3. 

Audio collections[edit]

  • (1998) Fresh Air: On Stage & Screen (cassette)
  • (2000) Fresh Air on Stage and Screen Vol 2 (CD)
  • (2004) Fresh Air Laughs with Terry Gross [UNABRIDGED] (CD)


  1. ^ Terry Gross at NPR.org
  2. ^ Leibovich, Lori (22 June 1998). "Turning the Tables on Terry Gross: Salon Gets Personal With NPR'S Maestro of Conversation". Salon. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  3. ^ Phillips, Michael. "Voicestruck in Philly by Terry Gross", Chicago Tribune, September 26, 2004. Accessed November 16, 2009. "Since going national in 1987, "Fresh Air" has brought together the Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York, native -- electronically, at least."
  4. ^ Fresh Air transcript: "Spending The Night With Sleepwalker Mike Birbiglia."
  5. ^ "Gross, Terry". Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Terry Gross: Producer and Host of National Public Radio’s 'Fresh Air' - Biography". Seattle Arts and Lectures. 2001. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  7. ^ Terry Gross at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ "Inside WBUR: Terry Gross". WBUR. 3 June 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-01-02. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  9. ^ Gross, Terry (4 February 2002). "Leader and Bassist of the Band Kiss, Gene Simmons". Fresh Air. NPR; WHYY. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  10. ^ Gene Simmons (4 February 2002). (TRANSCRIPT). Interview with Terry Gross. Fresh Air. NPR; WHYY http://web.archive.org/web/20051030001555/http://rof.net/wp/carriep/TERRYGRO.HTM. Retrieved 2005-10-30.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ Gene Simmons (4 February 2002). (AUDIO). Interview with Terry Gross. Fresh Air. NPR; WHYY https://archive.org/details/TerryGrossInterviewWithGeneSimmons. Retrieved 2008-01-17.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Bill O'Reilly (8 October 2003). (AUDIO). Interview with Terry Gross. Fresh Air. NPR; WHYY http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1459090. Retrieved 2008-01-17.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Dvorkin, Jeffrey A. (15 October 2003). "Gross vs. O'Reilly: Culture Clash on NPR". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  14. ^ a b Jeffrey A. Dvorkin (23 June 2006). (AUDIO/TRANSCRIPT). Interview with Brooke Gladstone and Mike Pesca. On the Media. NPR; WNYC http://www.onthemedia.org/transcripts/transcripts_062306_c.html. Retrieved 2008-01-17.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ Terry Gross (24 September 2003). (TV). Interview with Bill O'Reilly. The O'Reilly Factor. Fox News http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,133177,00.html. Retrieved 2008-03-19.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ Lynne Cheney (9 February 2005). (AUDIO). Interview with Terry Gross. Fresh Air. NPR; WHYY http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4492285. Retrieved 2008-01-17.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ Dvorkin, Jeffrey A. (15 February 2005). "A Week of Insults on NPR". NPR. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  18. ^ Petri, Alexandra (June 12, 2014). "Hillary Clinton’s strangely awkward Terry Gross interview on gay marriage". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  19. ^ FrugalFun.com article: "Interviewing the Interviewer: An Evening with Fresh Air's Terry Gross."
  20. ^ Salon.com article: "TURNING THE TABLES ON TERRY GROSS, Page 2."
  21. ^ Harvard Gazette article: "NPR's most seductive voice speaks."
  22. ^ B.D. Wong (11 June 2003). (AUDIO). Interview with Terry Gross. Fresh Air. NPR; WHYY http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1295057. Retrieved 2008-09-03.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ Gross, Terry (2004). All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 1-4013-0010-3. 
  24. ^ "CPB Names Terry Gross 2003 Murrow Award Recipient" (Press release). Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 16 May 2003. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 

External links[edit]