Terry Gross and the Art of Opening Up

Susan Burton, writing for The New York Times Magazine:

The control room had an anticipatory backstage feel. Moments earlier, a director was gesturing like a conductor, asking an engineer to ‘‘Hit it!’’ with an audio clip. In high school, Gross wanted to be a lyricist; one of the things she loves about radio is that it has ‘‘just enough theater.’’ ‘‘Fresh Air’’ is intensely collaborative, and many staff members have been there for years, including the executive producer Danny Miller, who started as an intern in 1978.

‘‘Hello, is this Sarah? Hi, this is Terry Gross. I’ll be doing the interview with you today.’’ Gross’s voice is briskly warm, with a luster that conveys the pleasure she takes in it as an instrument. For years, she took singing lessons; she told her instructor that she wasn’t trying to become good at singing — ‘‘I just want to be inside a song, to the extent that I can be. To just have my body inside a song.’’ The goal was raptness in a form she loves.

‘‘If I ask you anything too personal — I know your book is personal, but say I cross a line, just tell me, and we’ll move on,’’ she said to Hepola. ‘‘And you can tell me anything on the record or off the record. O.K.? Swell.’’

I settled in to listen. Along a long panel of buttons in the front of the room was a white plastic square with a big red arrow under it and a label that said, TALK TO TERRY BUTTON.

The best part of this piece was realizing that I’m not the only person who has rehearsed my future Fresh Air interview.