Gwen Ifill was among the most respected journalists of our time, and a trailblazer who epitomized our goal of ensuring a diversity of voices, stories and perspectives in the news media.
Ifill set new standards for journalism throughout her career, and broke past countless barriers along the way. In the early 1980s, when most print journalists in America were white men, Ifill was working as a reporter for the Boston Herald American and the Baltimore Evening Sun. When she began hosting PBS’s Washington Week in 1999, she became the first African-American woman to host a national political TV talk show. And, in 2013, she joined Judy Woodruff, one of the IWMF’s founders, to co-anchor the PBS NewsHour, becoming the first female co-anchor team in network broadcast history.
That same year, in 2013, Ifill joined Woodruff on stage as a presenter for the IWMF’s annual Courage in Journalism Awards, to recognize Syrian honoree Nour Kelze, the video of which can be seen here.
In remarks she made at the IWMF Courage in Journalism Awards, Ifill noted, “We would like for the day to come when it’s not news anymore, when two women sitting side by side, who have the depth of experience that Judy and I bring to the subject at hand and to the task at hand, would just be another thing that girls see every day, but they don’t see it every day right now.” She added, “And I know we’re both really proud, and I’ve gotten amazing reaction from young women who are touched by the idea that this is a breakthrough for them, that they’re going to see something different. So we want to live up to that.”
Beyond being a remarkable journalist, Ifill inspired and mentored countless journalists along the way. She was known not only for her probing, insightful questions – all asked with grace – but for her humanity and warmth.
“She was not only my dear friend, she was the best partner one can imagine, because she was committed to fairness and to the finest in journalism. You always knew when working with Gwen that she had your back. I’m crushed that she won’t be sitting by my side on the NewsHour anymore, but her mark on this program and on American journalism will endure,” Judy Woodruff said in remarks published on pbs.org.
Although she passed too soon, her legacy and leadership in the news industry will live on.