MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Terry Gross

The following interview with Terry Gross appeared in the premier edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter, and was reprinted with permission by Tami Keaveny for C-VILLE Weekly.

To view our summer newsletter or to subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

TerryGross‘From WHYY in Philadelphia, I’m Terry Gross with ‘Fresh Air.’”

Every NPR junkie knows this intro, and the anticipatory thrill as the warm, steady voice of Terry Gross floats through the radio speakers to set up the backstory of “Fresh Air’s” current interview guest.

For almost 40 years, Gross has been conducting compelling, substantive interviews with personalities in the arts and media. Her genuine interest, intelligent curiosity, and thorough research puts her guests at ease, and has turned her into a cultural icon and an unsuspecting tastemaker who is often revered by her subjects.

C-VILLE Weekly spoke to Gross in a phone conversation about her supposed gay agenda, the choice to remain childless, and her dream version of a musical supergroup.

 

C-VILLE Weekly: How do you get your guests into a comfort zone in which they share so candidly?

Terry Gross: One thing I tell guests before the interview starts (and this doesn’t hold true for elected officials), I tell them that if I ask them anything too personal that they should let me know and I’ll move on to something else because I respect their right to draw the line between what’s public and what’s private, and I can’t presume to know where that line is.

 

CW: Do your guests ever know the questions in advance?

TG: No.

 

CW: Most of the interviews are done remotely, but feel like it’s an intimate setting.

TG: It’s funny. I’ve been sitting across the table from people and felt no chemistry at all, and I’ve been thousands of miles away from somebody and felt a really strong connection. And if you’re a bit of a coward, which I am, it’s sometimes easier when you’re asking a challenging question, to ask it when you’re not looking the person in the eye.

 

CW: How much sharing happens when the microphone is off?

TG: There’s remarkably little sharing before or after the interview. Since most of the interviews are long distance, we are renting studio time at 15 minute increments. It takes every minute of that to let them know things like: we are recording, we’re not live, when we are thinking of broadcasting it, there’s a release form I need to read to them. Usually by the time I say goodbye, it’s the last second that I have to talk before the plug is literally pulled on the other end.

 

CW: There are a few well-known incidents where guests have cut interviews short. Have you ever stopped an interview?

TG: I’ve never cut an interview short by saying, “this interview’s over” and just walking out on them like some guests have done to me. But I have ended an interview early because I’ve run out of questions, or the guests answers were surprisingly short, or it was surprisingly boring.

 

CW: Do guests often turn out to be disappointing or even more fascinating than you’d expected?

TG: “Yes, sometimes people turn out to be surprisingly more interesting than you thought they’d be, and other times it’s the opposite. I’d rather not name names in that category. (laughs) We sometimes “kill” an interview. That’s always very difficult because the producer has to call back the agent or publicist and say “thank you, but we’re not going to run it.”

 

CW: Can you relate one of your “Fresh Air” bloopers?

TG: For years I had wanted to interview Lou Reed. When people would ask, “who’s the person you most want to interview?” My answer would be “Lou Reed.” I finally got to interview him (this was a few years ago) and he ended the interview, in about six minutes or so, or less, because everything I was asking him, he didn’t want to talk about. He said, “I’m sorry this isn’t working” and he walked out.

 

CW: Bill O’Reilly walked out of an interview accusing you of political bias. How do you temper your politics when you’re behind the microphone?

TG: I really think it’s my job, in my professional capacity, not to not carry in a personal agenda in politics, which doesn’t mean I don’t want to point out the more hypocritical and incorrect, and when I say incorrect, I mean factually incorrect. You don’t get to make things up because you’d like it to be that way or because it suits your agenda. I don’t like to interview people who are elected officials because to do a good interview with them you have to follow the beat very closely in order to catch in their distortions and their self-mythologizing. If you can’t catch those things, I think you are doing the audience a disservice.

 

CW: What led to your love of the interview format?

TG: Curiosity. Being an English major. If you’re interested in fiction, you’re probably interested in the lives of other people and probably feel that in examining the lives of other people, you’re learning about your own life.

 

CW: You’re cool and collected during interviews. Name a few guests who have intimidated you?

TG: Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Sondheim, and Stephen Sondheim. Every time I interview him, I’m always uncomfortable and he is always uncomfortable.

 

CW: Who are “ones that got away” in terms of interview guests living or dead?

TG: If we can go further into the past I would want to do a series of interviews with the great composers of the American Songbook, so it would be the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn. They’d be at the piano as I interviewed them and we’d alternate between interview and performance of their song.

 

CW: Let’s talk about the “obnoxious” Gene Simmons interview. Were you ever a fan of KISS?

TG: I was never a fan of KISS. I think I was slightly too old. By that time I was into new wave and punk and jazz and avant-garde music. The idea of “I’m gonna rock n roll all day and party all night” wasn’t gonna speak to me.

 

CW: Did he ever break character?

TG: Nope. He never broke character. In fact, he was in character when I read him the release form.

 

CW: Do you think Gene Simmons is a misogynist?

TG: That’s my impression. But, maybe a misanthrope as well.

 

CW: What surprising fact would be revealed if Terry Gross interviewed you?

TG: Terry Gross would not interview Terry Gross (laughing). I would protect myself from that interview. Maybe it’s that I don’t have children. That was a conscious decision between me and my husband. Once I found radio I thought, I don’t know how I’m gonna be able to do this and also be a parent. I ended up throwing out, well actually killing, all my plants because I wasn’t paying enough attention to them. So I figured if I couldn’t water my plants, “how am I going to raise children?” Subsequent to that I think a lot of women have figured out ways to do it. But I was afraid I wouldn’t, so I made that choice.

 

CW: In your book, “All I Did Was Ask,” you said that celebrity journalism led you to “question whether the autobiographical interview offers the potential for more than gossip or voyeurism. But only on my bad days.” What is a bad day for Terry Gross?

TG: Sometimes I wake up and I’m not feeling that curious, and and I have to come in and get into being really interested in someone else—and maybe I’m not even interested in myself that day. You know those days when everything is just kind of gray. The nice thing is that one of those gray days can easily change into one of the good days because if the guest is really good, I get really excited about it immediately. On the same note, a bright positive great day can take a real dark turn if the interview goes badly.

 

CW: You tell a funny story [in your book] about your mother-in-law being confronted with the assumption that you are a lesbian. Do you still encounter this misconception?

TG: I always thought it was hysterical. There’s a website that’s called NNDB. It’s a biographical website and they include gender, religion, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation and radio personality. So, under [Terry Gross’] sexual orientation it says, “matter of dispute.” As if there’s a panel of rabbis, scholars, and other learned individuals who are sitting around studying the great texts and debating with each other what my sexual orientation is.

 

CW: I read that it was because you hosted so many gay guests on “Fresh Air.”

TG: We had on a lot of gay guests before there was a lot of media giving that much attention to gay people and to gay issues, and we thought that was a really important function to serve. And when you’re talking about the arts, of course you’re going to have a lot of gay guests on. It was very exciting to have a radio show at the point in time when gay people in the arts were starting to come out of the closet.

 

CW: Are you puzzled by the nature of your own celebrity status?

TG: Puzzled is a good word. When someone asks me for an autograph, I’m incredibly flattered and slightly baffled.

 

CW: Do you ever stay quiet so that your voice isn’t recognized?

TG: I don’t have a big problem with that. I’m recognized more and more, and it doesn’t bother me. Public radio listeners are the nicest people. The typical public radio listener, when they recognize me, the first thing they do is apologize.

 

 

RelatedMEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Rachel Fershleiser from Tumblr

 

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Rachel Fershleiser from Tumblr

The following interview with Rachel Fershleiser appeared in the premier edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To view our summer newsletter or to subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

RachelFMC:  What book are you reading right now?

RF:  “Love Me Back” by Merritt Tierce. It’s not out til September, but I heard her read at the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 event and I was blown away. I love books about interesting women making potentially bad decisions while they’re figuring themselves out.

 

MC:  When you’re not at the office, what do you like to do?

RF:  I like to cook (especially soup), grow illegal tomatoes on my fire escape, and take long walks around New York.

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MEDIA CONNECT’s Halloween Roundup: 6 Spooky Reads for October

To help you celebrate the spookiest time of the year, we’re sharing our favorite literary works, from classics to new titles, so you can get in every second of terror this Halloween!

 

Halloween2014_Poe

 The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

“As one who goes running in terror at the random bump in the night, horror is really not my genre, but I can say that I have always gotten the creepy crawlies from Edgar Allan Poe. His Gothic tales and poems are so atmospheric and the language stays with you long after you’ve finished reading the piece.”

From The Raven:

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!

 -Kristin Clifford, Partner/Director of MC Satellite

 

The Tell-Tale Heart, also by Edgar Allan Poe.

 ”Even though he’s already appeared on this list, I think Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart deserves a mention in its own right. The first time I read it I was baffled by how I could be so terrified in such few pages. One of Poe’s most famous short stories, The Tell-Tale Heart, features an unreliable first-person narrator who recounts, in vivid detail, the murder he committed late at night of an unnamed old man. My first encounter with the story came in middle school. We watched the cartoon version of the story while the prose was read aloud in the background. I’m not sure what was more terrifying – seeing the filmy “vulture-eye” of the old man or reading about it. I can still see it so clearly in my mind, and I can still hear the relentless beating of the heart itself.”

-Anna Patrick, Digital Publicist

 

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MEDIA CONNECT Interview Series: Leigh Newman From Oprah.com

The following interview with Leigh Newman appeared in the premier edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To view our summer newsletter or to subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

Leigh NewmanMEDIA CONNECT:  What book are you reading right now?

Leigh Newman: Amy Bloom’s novel and “Inside the Box.”

 

MC:  When you’re not at the office, what do you like to do?

LN: Write books, ski, play with kids, cook, travel, SLEEP.

 

MC:   What’s your biggest pet peeve when working with publicists?

LN: Just would love one contact per house.

 

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MEDIA CONNECT Interviews Maggie Linton

The following interview with Maggie Linton appeared in the premier edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To view our summer newsletter or to subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

Maggie LintonMEDIA CONNECT:  What book are you reading right now?

Maggie Linton:  I read about 5 – 8 books per week. In most cases, I don’t read every word, but know enough about a book to ask intelligent questions and chat with authors. Reading now: Boys in the Boat, Brothers Forever, Confessions of the World’s Best Father & Auto Biography

 

MC:  When you’re not at The Maggie Linton Show, what do you like to do?

ML:  Travel, cook, listen to audio books, look at sports, read and photography.

 

MC:  What’s your biggest pet peeve when working with publicists?

ML:  Number one: Not calling me direct. A single phone call can take care of 5 to 10 emails to get a time and date confirmed. I get 100-150 emails per day. Plus our company has a serious filtering system. I miss stuff. Number two: Sending info in #10 size font or smaller. It’s not like we’re using paper. PLEASE use larger font! Also lying about guests having landlines, when they only have cells.

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Best Practice Tips For Authors: Twitter, Skype Interview Tips

The following best practice tips appeared in the premier edition of the MEDIA CONNECT newsletter. To view our summer newsletter or to subscribe for future editions, click here.

 

FOR TWITTER

By Anna Patrick, Digital Publicist

In aiming for higher levels of engagement and followers, try using these “best practices” when it comes to managing your Twitter accounts more effectively:

  • Make sure your Twitter account handle is under your name, not book title! Your twitter account should be a hub for all readers to visit one location for all of the latest news on your book(s).
  • Utilize the tools available to you. Sites like Tweetdeck and BookVibe are great for optimizing your time and content. BookVibe helps you track who is tweeting about your book. Tweetdeck is essentially your personal, customizable control center for your entire account, or multiple accounts at once. Here are a few tips for Tweetdeck: Create a custom alert for a specific keyword – this acts much like a Google alert, and can help connect you to users Tweeting about a topic that holds relevance to your book. Use the translate function to connect with readers who Tweet in other languages, even if you don’t know how to compose a Tweet in another language Tweetdeck translates automatically. If you add a new column specifically for new followers (go to “add column,” “core,” “new followers,”) you can create a column specifically showing new followers so you can check out their info quickly, reach out and welcome them more effectively, or block any users that appear to be spam.
  • Make your Twitter icon a headshot of you instead of your book cover. People like to connect with people, and social media studies have shown that people are more likely to follow Twitter users who have a photo of themselves as their icon.
  • Come up with one hashtag that represents your book title. Using this hashtag consistently will allow you to track readers who are talking about your book, most of whom will take your lead and use whatever hashtag you provide. Stick to the title of your book, but keep character count in mind (Keep to 14 characters or less, ideally).
  • Lastly, speaking of hashtags, don’t use more than two per tweet! More than this and you run the risk of losing followers, as high amounts of hashtags can mark your tweet as spam

 

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Author Q&A: Star Negotiator, Sports Agent and Corporate Consultant Reveals How Conversation Gets Deals Done

By Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer

 

Molly Fletcher has learned a lot over the past two decades while negotiating an estimated $500 million worth of deals on behalf of hundreds of the world’s premiere athletes, coaches and television commentators. She reveals the strategies, tips, and insights that have made her wildly successful first as a sports agent and now as a corporate consultant and keynote speaker, in her newest book, A Winner’s Guide To Negotiating: How Conversation Gets Deals Done.


MEDIA CONNECT sat down with Molly to ask her all about the book, her career, and more:

 

MEDIA CONNECT: You estimate that you’ve worked on 500 million dollars worth of deals on behalf of 300 clients over the past two decades. What’s been the key to your success?

Molly Fletcher: Relationships and reputation. In the sports agent industry there are more agents than there are athletes to represent. It’s a really competitive business, so you have to be able to effectively build, manage and grow relationships. You have to be able to build relationships with prospective clients while ensuring that you are continuing to develop relationships with your current clients and deliver consistently. You also have to be able to develop relationships with team personnel and manufacturers so you can deliver deals.  How you behave within all of those relationships determines your reputation. You often have to negotiate with the same parties multiple times, and they will avoid you and vice versa if they don’t trust you. Reputation is built on honesty and integrity and allows long term success.

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14 of the Best Insults in Literature

Insults_Pen On Fire

By Johanna Dickson, Digital Publicist

 

A writer’s greatest weapon is their pen, and as easily as they can turn a romantic phrase they can bare their teeth with words. As the saying goes, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” These writers clearly didn’t listen to that one. Here are some of the best insults, quips, and teardowns literature has given us. Next time someone attempts to cut you in line, why not make like Oscar Wilde?

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Author Q&A: Five-time Bestselling Author Discusses Civil Trial Lawyer, Fred Levin

By Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer

Young_Small Jacket Photo

In his new book And Give Up Showbiz? How Fred Levin Beat Big Tobacco, Avoided Two Murder Prosecutions, Became a Chief of Ghana, Earned Boxing Manager of the Year, and Transformed American Law, five-time New York Times bestselling author Josh Young provides a detailed and insightful portrait of one of the nation’s most successful and contentious civil trial lawyers, Fred Levin.

Young examines the unorthodox career path and life of a lawyer who was dogged by two murder investigations, three attempts to disbar him, a successful excursion into professional boxing management, a dysfunctional family life, and a legal career that included civil rights activism, huge lawsuit victories, and settlements that saved lives and reformed the tobacco, drug, and auto industries.

 

MEDIA CONNECT had the pleasure of speaking with Josh Young about the book and Levin:

 

MEDIA CONNECT: What’s Fred’s greatest or most prideful professional moment in a law career that spans more than a half-century?

Josh Young: Undoubtedly it was when Fred rewrote the Florida law that allowed the state to sue Big Tobacco on behalf of Medicaid patients, and got his buddy, who was the president of the Florida Senate, to ram it through unnoticed in the middle of the night. This allowed the state of Florida to sue Big Tobacco to recover Medicaid costs spent on behalf of smokers. Because the law that Levin wrote was ultimately upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Big Tobacco settled with Florida for $13 billion – and soon settled with every other state, paying out some $206 billion. Prior to that case, Big Tobacco had never paid a nickel to its victims. As a result of the settlement and the changes required in the marketing of cigarettes, more than 100,000 American lives are saved every year.

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5 Reasons Why Libraries Still Matter

Library

Trinity College library, Dublin, via Libraries In Crisis.

By Dee Donavanik, Publicity Director

 

Last week, the Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, FL opened the doors to a brand new library.  The fact that a new library is opening and not closing is perhaps news in and of itself, but what makes this one particularly unique is that it is completely devoid of physical books.  With an assortment of over 135,000 books, the new university embraced going totally digital as part of their mission: “ to prepare 21st century learners in advanced fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to become innovative problem-solvers and high-tech professionals through interdisciplinary teaching, leading-edge research, and collaborative local, regional and global partnerships.”

The library has its supporters and critics, and similar arguments have been made in the endless debate of  e-books vs print books. Forbes contributor Tim Worstall even recently argued against both libraries AND print books and suggested  that we close the libraries and buy everyone an Amazon Kindle unlimited subscription. Though Worstall’s suggestion may seem like a cost-effective solution on paper, it’s important to note that libraries are about much more than books.  And as S.E. Smith explains in The Week, “A world without public libraries is a grim one indeed, and the assault on public libraries should be viewed as alarming.”

 

Though there are plenty of arguments for why libraries still matter, here are a few:

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