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.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

In the 1960s, Janis Joplin was an icon of the counterculture, a female rock star at a time when rock was an all-boys' club.

"At that point in time there weren't too many women taking center stage," biographer Holly George-Warren says. "Janis created this incredible image that went along with her amazing vocal ability. ... [She] was very, very different than most of the women that came before."

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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross. Actor Robert Forster, best remembered as the bail bondsman in the Quentin Tarantino film "Jackie Brown," died last Friday in Los Angeles. He was 78.

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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

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

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Ronan Farrow's 2017 exposé of the sexual misconduct allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein in The New Yorker earned him a Pulitzer Prize and helped usher in the #MeToo movement. Now, in his new book, Catch and Kill, Farrow writes about the extreme tactics Weinstein allegedly used in an attempt to keep him from reporting the story.

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."

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, in for Terry Gross, continuing our salute to "Breaking Bad" and it's equally excellent spinoffs.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BREAKING BAD")

AARON PAUL: (As Jesse Pinkman) Yo, yo, yo, one, four, eight, three to the three to the six to the nine, representing the ABQ. What up, beeyotch (ph)? Leave it at the tone.

Editor's note: This interview contains a homophobic slur.

Growing up as a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, Megan Phelps-Roper was taught that God hated gay people. The church, which was founded by Phelps-Roper's grandfather, Fred Phelps Sr., became infamous for picketing the funerals of U.S. soldiers — whose deaths it believed were a punishment for America's sins and its tolerance of homosexuality.

When Christopher Wylie first began working for the British behavioral research company SCL Group, the company used data drawn from a number of sources as a means of potentially altering outcomes for its, sometimes military, clients.

On November 8, singer Anthony Roth Costanzo will take center stage at the Metropolitan Opera, debuting as the star of a new production of Philip Glass' opera Akhnaten. It's a remarkable turn for a celebrated singer who nearly lost his voice to thyroid cancer.

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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

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.

Conan O'Brien has been hosting late-night TV shows for 26 years — longer than anyone else currently on the air. So when a colleague suggested he start a podcast, he initially balked.

"My initial reaction was, 'Why would I do a podcast? I have a television show,'" O'Brien says. "That should be enough for anybody."

But then O'Brien thought more about the prospect, and he began to reconsider. On television, conversations with guests were constrained by TV cameras and commercial breaks; a podcast would free him to proceed more slowly and dig deeper in conversations.

A few years ago, when actor Antonio Banderas was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, a nurse told him that the heart was a warehouse for feelings — and warned him that he'd likely feel sad in the weeks or months to come.

As it turns out, she was right: Banderas had always considered himself a "tough guy," slow to cry and not overly sensitive, but suddenly he found himself tearing up watching movies or listening to music.

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore is documenting the world's captive animal species — currently around 9,000 and counting. His new book is Vanishing: The World's Most Vulnerable Animals. Originally broadcast Feb. 27, 2017.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into President Trump will have far-reaching impacts, and one of them may be to increase public interest in the man who would occupy the White House if the president were to depart, Vice President Mike Pence. Pence has been a loyal but largely invisible figure in the Trump administration.

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

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. In the new Ken Burns PBS series on the history of country music, my guest, Doug Green, talks about the era of the singing cowboy as epitomized by the most popular one, Gene Autry. Cowboy lore, folk ballads, jazz, Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood are all ingredients of the music of the singing cowboys who were movie staples in the '30s and '40s and then on TV in the '50s.

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.

High school was a tumultuous time for Canadian identical twins Tegan and Sara Quin. They both, separately, were coming to terms with their sexuality — and they were also beginning to write and record songs together.

"Almost right away, we started to weave our voices together. That was something that we had an instinct to do," Tegan says.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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.

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.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Linda Ronstadt is the subject of a new documentary that opened today called "Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice." We're going to listen back to the interview I recorded with her in 2013, a month after she revealed that she had Parkinson's disease and could no longer sing. The disease had ended her singing career years before it was diagnosed.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. I don't know about you, but I've been really confused lately about how and what I should be recycling. And I'm confused about what happens to my recycling after it's carted away. I'm referring to plastics and paper as well as electronics, including old phones and computers. We used to ship a lot of our waste to China for recycling. But recently, China stopped taking it. Now what? What are governments doing and what is industry doing to deal with the problem of waste?

When fashion designer Tan France got the call to audition for the Netflix makeover series Queer Eye, his initial reaction was to say no. France, the gay son of Pakistani Muslim immigrants, didn't want to take on the burden of representing his community — especially on television.

"The thought of being one of the very first openly gay South Asian men on a major show. ... That pressure was so hard to handle," he says. "The pressure of being one of the first to do something is massively stressful."

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