Why Terry Gross Is Great

NPR host's interview of Bill Ayers is absolutely textbook
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2008 4:10 PM CST

(Newser) – Terry Gross is one of the best interviewers in the business, and her recent session with Bill Ayers proves why, writes James Fallows in the Atlantic. The host of NPR’s Fresh Air avoids common modern pitfalls: She’s neither attack dog nor lapdog, and doesn’t try to prove how smart she is. It’s what she does while her guest is speaking that elevates her: “She listens, and she thinks.”

The result, as in the Ayers interview, is smarter questions that draw out the interview subject without being confrontational. “If you have this standard in mind—is the interviewer really listening? and thinking?—you will be shocked to see how rarely broadcast and on-stage figures do very much of either,” writes Fallows. Gross is the exception.