Leonard Head | Local & World Editor
Pioneering news journalist, Gwen Ifill died Monday after a long-fought battle with uterine cancer at age 61. Ifill was the host of PBS’ Washington Week and co-host of PBS NewsHour. She covered seven presidential campaigns and moderated the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008. Ifill covered national newspapers before transitioning to broadcast journalism.
She also wrote “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” a book published the day President Obama was inaugurated in 2009.
Her ill health led to recent absences from her jobs as co-anchor of “The PBS NewsHour” and as moderator of PBS’s “Washington Week” roundtable public affairs show. In February, she co-moderated a Democratic primary debate in Wisconsin between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
“It is very sad to lose a Black journalist especially a woman who guided many discussions about race and relations,” said Tiara Sargeant, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists Hampton University chapter president. “She used her platform to bring hope and change to the Black community.”
“Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change,” Sara Just, PBS News Hour’s executive producer, said in a press release statement. “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.”
After graduating from Simmons College in Boston with a journalism degree, Ifill began her career writing for the Boston Herald-American, jumped to the Baltimore Evening Sun and later the Washington Post. At the New York Times, she covered the White House.
President-elect Donald Trump, posted on his Facebook page: “We are saddened by the passing of Gwen Ifill and extend our deepest condolences to her family and loved ones. Gwen was a broadcasting pioneer, shattering barriers throughout her career and blazing a path for future generations following in her considerable footsteps. Her presence and legacy will be felt forever.”
Hampton University journalism students will remember Ifil for her groundbreaking news coverage. Students from the journalism program see Iffil as a role model and a pioneer in the journalism business.
“When I heard the news about Gwen Iffil, all I could say was wow! Gwenn Iffil was an icon, a role model, an extraordinary journalist and someone whom I admire.”Lesli Delabour, a sophomore journalism major said. Delabour went on to say that Iffil’s death upsetting considering all that she has done for journalism. “Journalists are mourning her lost. May her sweet soul rest.”