by John Eggerton
November 14, 2016
Gwen Ifill—moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and co-anchor and managing editor for PBS NewsHour—has died at the age of 61.
She had taken a leave of absence back in May to deal with “medical issues,” essentially the same reason NewsHour gave last week when she was not able to cohost election night coverage as initially planned.
“It is with extremely heavy hearts that we must share that our dear friend and beloved colleague Gwen Ifill passed away this afternoon following several months of cancer treatment,” said PBS in a statement. “She was surrounded by loving family and many friends whom we ask that you keep in your thoughts and prayers.”
“Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change,” said PBS NewsHour executive producer and WETA senior VP Sara Just. “She was a mentor to so many across the industry and her professionalism was respected across the political spectrum. She was a journalist’s journalist and set an example for all around her.
“So many people in the audience felt that they knew and adored her. She had a tremendous combination of warmth and authority. She was stopped on the street routinely by people who just wanted to give her a hug and considered her a friend after years of seeing her on tv.
We will forever miss her terribly.”
President Obama offered his and the First Lady’s deepest condolences on the death of Ifill. At a press conference before his final trip abroad as President, he said that she was a friend, and a journalist who kept faith with the fundamental responsibilities of the profession, asking tough questions, defending a free press and making Democracy work.
He said he always appreciated that faith, even when he was on the receiving end of her tough questions. He also said she informed today’s citizens and inspired tomorrow’s journalists, particulary the young women who saw her as half of the first female all-anchor news team (Judy Woodruff is the other half of that team).
Ifill joined Washington Week and NewsHour in 1999. Before that, she was chief congressional and political correspondent for NBC News, a White House correspondent for The New York Times, and a political reporter for The Washington Post.
“The public television family lost one of its most beloved members today,”s aid Patrick Butler, president of America’s Public Television Stations. “Gwen Ifill was more than a superb journalist; she was a national treasure, and her passing is devastating to all who knew her, either personally or through her nightly visits in America’s homes as co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour.”
“I have known Gwen since her days as a reporter for The Washington Post, where she first earned her national reputation for fearless, balanced, incisive journalism of the highest order.”
“Gwen was also an active and valued member of Washington’s philanthropic community, and her contributions to the improvement of thousands of lives in our capital city were as profound as they were purposely unheralded.”
Ifill was a native of New York and a graduate of Simmons College in Boston.