Gwen Ifill, author, moderator and managing editor of PBS’s “Washington Week,” and one of the most prominent journalists in the country, died Nov. 14, 2016, in Washington. She was 61.
“Gwen was one of America’s leading lights in journalism and a fundamental reason public media is considered a trusted window on the world by audiences across the nation,” said Paula Kerger, CEO of PBS. “Our sorrow at her passing is a part of our profound gratitude for all that she did for our system and our nation.”
Ifill was born in New York City and began her journalism career as an intern at the Boston Herald American. She was hired at the newspaper after graduating from Simmons College. She later worked for Baltimore’s Evening Sun, The Washington Post, The New York Times and NBC News.
In 1999, Ifill became moderator of PBS’s “Washington Week in Review” and was senior correspondent for PBS NewHour. In 2013, she and Judy Woodruff were named co-anchors and co-managing editors of NewsHour — the first female co-anchor team in network broadcasting. Ifill covered seven presidential campaigns and moderated the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008.
“When I was a little girl watching programs like this … I would look up and not see anyone who looked like me in any way. No women. No people of color,” she told The New York Times. “I’m very keen about the fact that a little girl now … when they see me and Judy sitting side by side, it will occur to them that that’s perfectly normal.”
Ifill interviewed national and international newsmakers and reported on issues from foreign affairs to politics. She was the best-selling author of “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” published in 2009. At a press conference Monday, President Barack Obama issued a statement about Ifill: “She not only informed today’s citizens, but she also inspired tomorrow’s journalists,” he said.
Ifill was a great supporter and friend of the Newseum and the Newseum Institute. She narrated the popular Newseum-produced video “The Press and the Civil Rights Movement,” and has hosted and moderated numerous programs. On Sept. 29, her last appearance at the Newseum, she participated in a members-only program in the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater that commemorated the 100th birthday of late CBS News icon Walter Cronkite.
In 2013, Ifill received the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in Journalism in recognition of her lifetime of work promoting quality journalism and the First Amendment. Past recipients have included Cronkite and Woodruff.
“Gwen’s dedication to journalism, commitment to excellence and her bright spirit led her to become one of America’s most trusted and respected news anchors,” said Jeff Herbst, president and CEO of the Newseum. “Her quick smile, infectious laugh and earnest curiosity made for many memorable moments. Everyone at the Newseum will miss her dearly, and we extend our sincere condolences to her family, friends and colleagues at the PBS NewsHour.”