|Born||February 14, 1951|
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
|Alma mater||University at Buffalo (BA, M.Ed)|
High school sweetheart
(m. 1970, divorced)
Terry Gross (born February 14, 1951) is an American journalist who is the host and co-executive producer of Fresh Air, an interview-based radio show produced by WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and distributed nationally by NPR. Since joining NPR in 1975, Gross has interviewed thousands of guests.
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 was born in Brooklyn, and grew up in its Sheepshead Bay neighborhood, the second child of Anne (Abrams), a stenographer, and Irving Gross, who worked in a family millinery business, where he sold fabric to milliners. She grew up in a Jewish family, and all her grandparents were immigrants, her father's parents from Tarnów, Poland and her mother's from the Russian Empire. 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. 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 across the 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's show have been with her since the late 1970s to 1980s.
The San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Gross's 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, 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. For years she took singing lessons, and has worked to relax her voice and to a more natural, deeper tone. Much has been written about Gross's 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. Several guests, including Lou Reed, Jann Wenner, Faye Dunaway, Monica Lewinsky, Bill O'Reilly, and Adam Driver, have stopped their interviews prematurely.
Three notable examples are:
Gross 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 2012, Gross appeared in a short comedic film by Mike Birbiglia titled "The Secret Criminal Life of Terry Gross."
In 2015 she appeared on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me and played the game "Not My Job", answering questions about Hulk Hogan.
In January 2020, Gross appeared on the PBS program Finding Your Roots, in which she explored her Jewish heritage. A year prior, host Henry Louis Gates Jr. had been a guest on Fresh Air. At the conclusion of their Fresh Air interview, Gates invited Gross to appear on Finding Your Roots.
In 2020, Gross appeared as a fictionalized version of herself in the audiobook version of the Max Brooks novel Devolution.
She is the voice of Pam in the HBO Max animated series The Fungies!.
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 previously. Gross said she dropped out of college in her sophomore year to hitchhike with him across the country before they were married. She obtained 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.
|Terry Gross Receives the 2015 National Humanities Medal, September 22, 2016, C-SPAN, user-created clip showing only the segment where Terry Gross receives the medal.|
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Mike Birbiglia's radio interview with the famous Fresh Air host takes an unexpected turn.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the Jewish heritages of actor Jeff Goldblum, radio host Terry Gross
In front of all these people and all these viewers. I'm here to ask, on behalf of our production staff, if you will be a guest in next season