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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Iconoclastic humorist Fran Lebowitz used to be known as a writer. Back in the late 1970s and '80s, she released two popular collections of essays featuring her cutting observations and opinions about life. But that part of her career was cut short by a decades-long case of writer's block — now she's known for talking.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Yesterday, before extremist, pro-Trump rioters, many without masks, stormed the Capitol building, I recorded an interview about the mistakes, missed opportunities and behind-the-scenes struggles that allowed the coronavirus to spread out of control across the U.S. The virus doesn't care about politics or the future of our democracy. The COVID numbers are spiking. And a new, more deadly strain has shown up in the U.S. Yesterday, we broke another single-day record for COVID deaths in the U.S., 3,963.

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Interested in learning a new skill in the new year? CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta says that will also improve your brain health.

"The act of experiencing something new — or even doing something that's typical for you, but in a different way — can all generate these new brain cells," says Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon and associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. "We want to constantly be using new paths and trails and roads within our brain."

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Happy New Year. It seems most New Years, at least one cable channel shows "The Godfather" films. In a weird way, I've come to think of it as a holiday film. For the 30th anniversary of "Godfather III" (ph), Francis Ford Coppola has released a restored and reedited version of the film. It has a new title, too - "Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Coda: The Death Of Michael Corleone" - spoiler. It's available on video on demand.

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Happy New Year. We're happy to say goodbye to 2020, and we want to end it with something enjoyable and entertaining, so we're going to listen to a performance and interview we recorded earlier this month. Here's that show.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GROSS: Over the past few months, I haven't been able to listen to as much music as I'd like because so much of my listening time has been devoted to shows and podcasts about politics, the election and COVID.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Life during the pandemic has been feeling like something Stephen King dreamed up. About 40 years ago, in his novel "The Stand," he wrote about a virus that's 99% lethal and wipes out most of the population. That virus was accidentally released by a lab developing biological weapons. "The Stand" was adapted into an ABC miniseries back in 1994. A new miniseries adapted from "The Stand" is now streaming on CBS All Access.

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This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHITE CHRISTMAS")

ROSEMARY CLOONEY: (Singing) I'm dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones I used know.

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The fight against COVID-19 entered a new phase this week as American health care workers started getting vaccinated — the first in what will be a massive effort.

British MC and actor Riz Ahmed is used to rapping and reciting lines, but he had to learn a new form of communication for his latest film.

In Sound of Metal, Riz Ahmed plays a drummer who goes deaf. To prepare for the role, Ahmed immersed himself in deaf culture and worked with a deaf advocate to learn American Sign Language. He says the experience changed the way he thought about communication.

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John le Carre, the author whose spy novels were praised for transcending genre fiction and simply being great literature, died Saturday of pneumonia. He was 89. Many of his books have been adapted into films or TV series, including "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold," "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," "The Little Drummer Girl," "The Constant Gardener" and "The Night Manager."

With only a few weeks until President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, President Trump still won't admit defeat. White House correspondent Maggie Haberman, who has reported on Trump over the past 20 years, sheds light on his refusal to concede.

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For Kate Winslet, one of the best things about being an actor is taking on roles that scare her — and that's exactly what happened in her latest film, Ammonite.

Ammonite is a love story that centers on a real-life historical figure: Mary Anning was a self-taught paleontologist who lived on England's southern coast in the 19th century. She discovered fossils that were important contributions to the understanding of evolution — but she received little credit because she was a poor woman without connections.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

After spending much of his career playing the male lead in romantic comedies, actor Hugh Grant is shifting into darker roles.

"It's alarming how many pretty unpleasant narcissists I've played or been offered in the last six or seven years," Grant says. "It's certainly been a blessed relief after having to be Mr. Nice Guy for so many years — which is a thankless task for any actor."

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