Gross started her radio profession in 1973 at WBFO (an NPR affiliate station) in sunny Buffalo, New York. She began volunteering her talents on a program called Woman Power. Later she came to co-host the show This is Radio. Both of these programs generally covered topics related to public affairs and women’s rights.
After gaining a couple of years of experience, Gross had a great opportunity to move to WHYY in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; where she began to host and produce Fresh Air. At that time, it was a local interview show. Ten years later in 1985, NPR picked Fresh Air up as a weekly distribution and the show went national. It continued to gain popularity and in just two years’ time, it became a daily show.
Gross’ interviews encompass an astonishing confluence of compassion, kind-heartedness, authentic inquisitiveness, and sharp intellect. Before each interview she does a lot to prepare, equipping herself with information from their books, movies, CDs, and any other information she can find out about them- but seems to prefer primary sources. Her level of preparation allows her to guide her guests in improbable, revelatory directions. While the majority of Gross’ guests are honored to be in conversation with one of the best interviewers of our time, she has had some difficult interviews. These interviews include Gene Simmons (KISS singer and bassist), Bill O’Reilly (Fox News television host), Lynne Cheney (conservative author and wife of then-Vice President Dick Cheney), and Hilary Clinton (former Secretary of State, presidential candidate, and former first lady).
Awards that Terry Gross has received
- Award for Best Live Radio Program from Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1981
- Ohio State Award in 1987
- Honorary Doctor of Letters from Drexel University in 1989
- Distinguished Alumni Award from State University of New York at Buffalo in 1993
- Peabody Award in 1994
- Doctor of Letters from Haverford College in 1998
- Gracie Allen Award for National Network Radio Personality from The Foundation of American Women In Radio and Television in 1999
- Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Princeton University in 2002
- Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 2003
- Literarian Award from the National Book Foundation in 2007
- Doctor of Humane Letters from State University of New York at Buffalo in 2007
- Columbia Journalism Award from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2008
- Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community in 2011
- Inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2012
- National Humanities Medal in 2015
Works and Publications
In 2004, Terry Gross came out with a book titled All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists. For her debut print assemblage, she selected over three dozen seemingly eternal interviews that prove to be as engaging in the written word as they are aurally over airwave. Her queries are together penetrating yet delicate, they inspire admissions from interviewees as varied as John Updike, Isabella Rossellini, Conan O’Brien, Samuel L. Jackson, Johnny Cash, and Nicholas Cage. Aside from the actual content of interviews, Gross shares a little about her process. She confesses to the enormous amount of prep work involved as well as getting nervous before each recording session. Her book has received the highest reviews from critics, publishers, and readers alike.