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 Stories for May 6, 1998:

Regular Features:

Interviewing the Interviewer
A Visit with Terry Gross

by Tamara Keith, Public Affairs
posted May. 6, 1998

Terry Gross, host of National Public Radio’s interview-format program Fresh Air, said that she gives artists more latitude on the air than politicians. In an April 23 conversation in Zellerbach Auditorium with Journalism School Dean Orville Schell, Gross explained her trademark interview style.

“Politicians are already very good at manipulating the press,” said Gross. “I don’t want to give them any tools. I don’t want to help politicians revise the truth.”

With Fresh Air, Gross tries to provide a place where people can sound like themselves. Gross explained that she entered the male-dominated field of radio because she was tired of hearing about the women’s movement from men who knew nothing about it. She “just wanted to get it right,” she said.

Because Fresh Air is on public radio, Gross has more control over the content of her show than she would at a higher-paying corporate station.

“It’s not the big money that keeps people in public radio,” said Gross. “It’s a luxury. I like to think about who’s on the show, not who’s paying for the show.”

Gross added that because she has so much control over content, she is able to make the show reflect her interests.

“The things I am most passionate about are on my show,” she said. Her passions include many facets of the art world, especially jazz, books and poetry.

To best use her air time, Gross’s staff puts Fresh Air guests through a lot before the listeners ever hear their voices. According to Gross, guests are often pre-interviewed to see if they can keep the on-air conversation interesting.

“We look for the ability to communicate and to reflect,” said Gross.

Gross rarely wants to be the interviewee because she knows how hard it is to stay interesting, she said.

“When you’ve been interviewed a lot, your life becomes reduced to polished anecdotes,” she said.

Gross explained that although her interviews are enthralling on the air, much is left on the editing room floor.

“Often real life is boring and problematic,” said Gross. “I love the edited version of it.”

Gross’s conversation with Schell was the inaugural event of the Bethany Korwin-Pawlowska Memorial Fund Program, which is dedicated to bringing distinguished women journalists to Berkeley.

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