Gwen Ifill, a History-Tracker and a HistoryMaker

Gwen Ifill. Photo by Robert Severi

Gwen Ifill. Photo by Robert Severi

Those who appreciate high-quality broadcast news were saddened today to learn of the passing of longtime PBS NewsHour co-host and Washington Week moderator Gwen Ifill.

The former New York Times, Washington Post and NBC News political, congressional and White House reporter, 61, had been under treatment for cancer. She and her NewsHour co-host Judy Woodruff were the first women to co-anchor a U.S. nightly newscast. She also wrote for the Baltimore Sun and the Boston Herald-American. In the course of her career she won a George Foster Peabody Award (honoring distinguished and meritorious work in radio and television), the Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award of the Radio/Television Digital News Association and the National Press Club’s highest honor, the Fourth Estate Award, among many other honors. Ebony Magazine listed her among the nation’s 150 most influential African Americans.  She also served on the board of directors of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, a joint project of the Library and WGBH to preserve and provide access to the nation’s public broadcasting heritage.  She also served on the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Ifill wrote “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama” (2009), which she spoke about at the Library of Congress National Book Festival that year. She was also a moderator of televised political debates, including the 2004 and 2008 vice-presidential debates and a 2016 Democratic primary debate.

She interviewed former U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens when he came to the Law Library of Congress to receive the Wickersham Award for exceptional public service from the Friends of the Law Library of Congress.

Gwen Ifill is among the media figures represented in the video history collection known as “The HistoryMakers,” a collection of videos of African American public figures interviewed for the public record. This documentary record was added to the collections of the Library of Congress in 2014. She was interviewed for the collection in 2012.

Ifill was known not only for her consummate professionalism but also as a thoughtful and generous person.  In an address delivered at the Library in 2013, she said: “Whose stories can you tell? Whose voices are not being heard? Which stories and voices go unheard, and–most of all–what are you willing to do about it?”



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