Remembering The Inspirational Gwen Ifill

by Kelly Walters

On Monday we said goodbye to one of the country’s leading political journalists, Gwen Ifill. The host of Washington Week, and PBS News Hour died due to complications from uterine cancer at the age of 61.

Ifill was an American Peabody Award-winning journalist, best-selling author, and the moderator for two vice presidential debates, in 2004 and 2008.

As an African-American woman in a typically male-dominated field, she faced discrimination throughout her career, but continued to work tirelessly to objectively cover American politics, and create milestones within her field.


In 1999 Ifill was hired at Washington Week, the first African-American woman to host a major political talk show. There she commentated on seven presidential campaigns, including the 2016 election, in which she moderated a Democratic presidential primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

In 2013 Ifill joined Judy Woodruff to co-host PBS News Hour, the first women to anchor the show.

“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,” Ifill said in a 2013 interview with the New York Times. “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.”

ifill and woodruff

See her here discussing her career and her fascination with news and politics from a young age:

Political news can be a circus in this country, with some organizations reporting for the purpose of entertainment as opposed to information — we’ve especially seen that this past year. But Ifill was a reporter who was genuinely passionate about news and sharing thoroughly researched stories with her audience.

“Her contributions to thoughtful reporting and civic discourse simply cannot be overstated,” said Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS. “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.”

She will be greatly missed.

Images via Flickr

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