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Gwen Ifill, a History-Tracker and a HistoryMaker

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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?”



Comments (5)

  1. A standard bearer has exited the scene at a time when her considerable professional and personal experiences would have been most needed. Such is the treacherous nature of the world in the opinion of humans. But “Nature” or Divine Providence has His/Her own way of resolving the all-too-ephemeral reality of human existence. In the end, all that we are left with are the scar tissue of memories which fast recede into the supersonic flight of time. Fortunately contemporary technology has appreciably slowed down such mnemonic evanescence. It has also facilitated the rapid and near-instantaneous reprise of fleeting moments captured with lightening speed and frozen, one hopes, eternally for the benefit of posterity. Big Sister, may your journey be smooth, painless and fruitful yonder, even as it had been hereabouts.

  2. As a photojournalist/writer myself, I have always respected Gwen Ifill’s reporting. I was missing her presence on the Newshour and on Washington Week in Review as the campaign heated up and wondered where she was. I guess she was on the biggest assignment of her life. We who followed her will be the poorer for her absence. May she rest in peace.

  3. OK, Gwen. Get to work. Now we REALLY need your help as an angel in Heaven. Thank you for your work here on Earth. We appreciate how high you’ve set the bar for journalists, women, and people of color. Every time I hear a journalist call someone out for being vague or for just outright telling a lie, I’ll be thinking of you.

  4. To All of Gwen’s media fans,

    She will be missed and remembered as a stoic news reporter, that went beyond a myriad of barriers, to become one of the most recognized and trusted faces in communicating the news, especially to those who sought the truth in the events of the world!

    Again, Gwen you will be remembered and you will truly be missed in many American households!

    Rest in peace my friend and thank you for your years of reporting the news and for being a regular part of our family.

    Thank you to your family for sharing you with us for so many years,

  5. I will pray for your family as they are going through these hard times.
    I didn’t get the time to say thank you for your up lifting word’s as I was creating this economic health treatment plan for America, to the family of Gwen I’ve kept my eyes on the ball healthcare for all.

    P.S may the Lord Jesus Christ keep you in Peace.

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