Born in Delaware and raised in Southern California, Terry's journalism career began at age 8 with a byline in the Pasadena Star News. A 1976 graduate of Stanford University, majoring in communication, she was news and entertainment editor of the Stanford Daily. While still a student she worked for the Associated Press at the Patty Hearst Trial and earned a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund editing scholarship.

Upon graduation, she reported for the Trenton Times and covered Ted Turner's victory in the 1977 America's Cup for United Press International. Her TV news career began at WPRI- TV in Providence, and led to anchoring and reporting jobs at WCHS-TV in Charleston WV, WTVJ in Miami, WSB-TV in Atlanta and KPRC-TV in Houston.

At WBBM-TV in Chicago, Terry won an Emmy in 1982 for coverage of Chicago's Roman Catholic Church and traveled to Poland under martial law to document the Solidarity movement and the delivery of humanitarian aid, earning the prestigious Peter Lisagor award for feature reporting. This led to her selection as a Benton Fellow at the University of Chicago, a graduate level program for mid-career broadcast journalists.

While serving as a national correspondent for the NBC-owned stations in Washington DC in 1986, Terry was named a finalist in NASA's journalist-in-space program