Photo by Will Ryan

This fall, Gross marks her 40th anniversary hosting “Fresh Air.” At 64, she is “the most effective and beautiful interviewer of people on the planet,” as Marc Maron said recently, while introducing an episode of his podcast, “WTF,” that featured a conversation with Gross. She’s deft on news and subtle on history, sixth-sensey in probing personal biography and expert at examining the intricacies of artistic process. She is acutely attuned to the twin pulls of disclosure and privacy. “You started writing memoirs before our culture got as confessional as it’s become, before the word ‘oversharing’ was coined,” Gross said to the writer Mary Karr last month. “So has that affected your standards of what is meant to be written about and what is meant to maintain silence about?” (“That’s such a smart question,” Karr responded. “Damn it, now I’m going to have to think.”)

Gross is an interviewer defined by a longing for intimacy. In a culture in which we are all talking about ourselves more than ever, Gross is not only listening intently; she’s asking just the right questions.

In The New York Times Magazine Susan Burton profiles “national interviewer” Terry Gross, who celebrates 40 years behind the microphone as the host of NPR’s Fresh Air.

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