Terry Gross

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 interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gross, who has been host of Fresh Air since 1975, when it was broadcast only in greater Philadelphia, isn't afraid to ask tough questions. But Gross sets an atmosphere in which her guests volunteer the answers rather than surrendering 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," Gross says. "But the line can shift, depending on who is asking the questions. 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. The program is broadcast on 566 stations and became the first non-drive time show in public radio history to reach more than five million listeners each week in fall 2008, a presidential election season. In fall 2011, Fresh Air reached 4.4 million listeners a week.

Fresh Air with Terry Gross has received a number of awards, including the prestigious Peabody Award in 1994 for its "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insight." America Women in Radio and Television presented Gross with a Gracie Award in 1999 in the category of National Network Radio Personality. In 2003, she received the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Edward R. Murrow Award for her "outstanding contributions to public radio" and for advancing the "growth, quality and positive image of radio." In 2007, Gross received the Literarian Award. In 2011, she received the Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community.

Gross is the author of All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians and Artists, published by Hyperion in 2004.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gross received a bachelor's degree in English and M.Ed. in communications from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Gross was recognized with the Columbia Journalism Award from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 2008 and an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Princeton University in 2002. She received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993 and Doctor of Humane Letters in 2007, both from SUNY–Buffalo. She also received a Doctor of Letters from Haverford College in 1998 and Honorary Doctor of Letters from Drexel University in 1989.

CNN analyst Peter Bergen reflects on Trump's soured relationships with Generals Mattis, McMaster and Kelly. "He's gotten rid of the most competent people he had in his circle," Bergen says.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Child advocate Mary Previte spent three decades devoted to the compassionate care of the troubled young people in her charge at the Camden County Youth Center in New Jersey. Previte died last month at age 87.

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Author Adam Minter remembers two periods of grief after his mother died in 2015: the intense sadness of her death, followed by the challenge of sorting through what he calls "the material legacy of her life."

Over the course of a year, Minter and his sister worked through their mother's possessions until only her beloved china was left. Neither one of them wanted to take the china — but neither could bear to throw it out. Instead, they decided to donate it.

When BJ Miller was a sophomore at Princeton University, he climbed atop a commuter train that had been parked for the night. What began as a lark took a tragic turn when 11,000 volts of electricity suddenly surged through his body.

"There was a big explosion, a big flash of light, and I was thrown ... quite some distance," Miller says. "My body was literally smoking."

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. After Donald Trump was elected but before he was inaugurated, BuzzFeed published a leaked document that became known as the Steele dossier - a series of memos written by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele suggesting Russia had been cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump and that, according to several sources, Russia had compromising information that could be used to blackmail Trump.

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

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest Andrew Marantz has spent the past three years reporting on the alt-right's use of social media. He's embedded with the people he describes as the trolls and bigots and propagandists who are experts at converting fanatical memes into policy.

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The recent biopic Rocketman painted a Hollywood version of Elton John's life, but a new memoir, Me, comes straight from the artist himself. In it, he describes how, as a young man, he was determined to enter the music business, in spite of some misgivings about rock 'n' roll in his household. As he tells Fresh Air, "My dad, of course, hated it."

Updated on 10/3/19 at 11:20 a.m. ET

President Trump made building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico a cornerstone of his 2016 presidential campaign. But when, after the election, efforts to build the wall stalled, he turned to other possible options — including constructing a trench filled with snakes and alligators — according to a forthcoming book.

Growing up in Maryland, author Ta-Nehisi Coates was enthralled by stories of Harriet Tubman, the 19th century abolitionist who operated the Underground Railroad on the state's Eastern Shore. He read about Tubman's efforts to lead enslaved people to freedom, and was struck by the surreal qualities of her story.

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

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

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This is FRESH AIR. We've got some very sad news today. Cokie Roberts, one of the founding mothers of NPR, has died from complications of breast cancer. She was 75.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Some of today's most divisive issues related to racial equality, voting rights and voter suppression, women's rights, who gets to be a citizen, mass incarceration and what is the meaning of equal justice are issues you can't fully understand without understanding the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. These are the amendments that were added to the Constitution after the Civil War in the era known as Reconstruction.

Several Democratic presidential candidates are calling for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after The New York Times published an essay Sept. 14 describing alleged sexual misconduct that occurred during his college years at Yale.

During the early period of the Cold War, the CIA became convinced that communists had discovered a drug or technique that would allow them to control human minds. In response, the CIA began its own secret program, called MK-ULTRA, to search for a mind control drug that could be weaponized against enemies.

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

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli sitting in for Terry Gross. This week, we've been featuring interviews with performers and writers who are up for Emmy Awards at next month's ceremonies. Today we're spending time with two of the nominees in the category of Outstanding Short Form Variety Series.

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.

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.

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