Legendary Political Reporter and Co-Anchor of PBS NewsHour Gwen Ifill, died on Monday at a hospice in Washington after losing her battle against uterine cancer. She was 61.
Ms. Ifill was one of the most prominent political journalists of our time, at the forefront of an industry dominated by white men.
Ifill became the first African-American woman to host a major political TV talk show in 1999 when she took the helmWashington Week in Review. She covered seven presidential campaigns and moderated the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008. More recently, she moderated a presidential primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Ifill was also a best-selling author.
In 2003, Ifill was named Co-Host of the PBS NewsHour. In an interview with The New York Times, she reflected on what her new role could mean to a new generation.
“When I was a little girl watching programs like this — because that’s the kind of nerdy family we were — I would look up and not see anyone who looked like me in any way. No women. No people of color,” she said. “I’m very keen about the fact that a little girl now, watching the news, when they see me and Judy [Woodruff] sitting side by side, it will occur to them that that’s perfectly normal — that it won’t seem like any big breakthrough at all.”
Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, said Ifill was “a fundamental reason public media is considered a trusted window on the world.”
“Her contributions to thoughtful reporting and civic discourse simply cannot be overstated,” Kerger said. “She often said that her job was to bring light rather than heat to issues of importance to our society. Gwen did this with grace and steadfast commitment to excellence.”
During a news conference, President Obama said he appreciated Ifill’s reporting even when she posed tough questions to him.
“She always kept faith with the fundamental responsibility of her profession, asking tough questions, holding people in power accountable and defending a strong and free press that makes our democracy work,” Obama said.
Rest In Peace, Ms. Ifill. You will be missed.