by Dylan Byers and Brian Stelter @CNNMoney
Gwen Ifill, the veteran journalist and newscaster who co-anchored “PBS NewsHour,” has died, PBS said Monday.
Ifill, 61, broke gender and racial barriers and became a role model for journalists across the country. She had been battling endometrial cancer while covering this year’s presidential election.
“Gwen was one of America’s leading lights in journalism and a fundamental reason public media is considered a trusted window on the world by audiences across the nation,” Paula Kerger, the PBS president and CEO, said.
“She often said that her job was to bring light rather than heat to issues of importance to our society,” Kerger said.
During a press conference on Monday, President Obama described Ifill as “an extraordinary journalist” who “always kept faith with the fundamental responsibilities of her profession, asking tough questions, holding people in power accountable, and defending a strong and free press that makes our democracy work.”
Ifill, who worked at The Washington Post, The New York Times and NBC News, became moderator of PBS’s “Washington Week in Review” in 1999. She was tapped to be the co-anchor of the “NewsHour” in 2013. Ifill and co-anchor Judy Woodruff were the first women to jointly lead a national nightly news broadcast.
Ifill also moderated the 2004 and 2008 vice-presidential debates, as well as a 2016 Democratic primary debate.
“Whether she reported from the convention floor or from the field, whether she sat at the debate moderator’s table or the anchor’s desk, she not only informed today’s citizens, she also inspired tomorrow’s journalists,” Obama said. “She was an especially powerful role model for young women and girls who admired her integrity, her tenacity and her intellect, and for whom she blazed a trail as one half of the first all-female network anchor team on network news.”
“I think we’re all diminished without Gwen,” CNN’s Gloria Borger, a longtime friend of Ifill’s, said after the news of Ifill’s passing was announced.
Borger recalled that Ifill’s “preparation for those debates was stunning.”
“She was such a role model for me, and for so many people,” CNN’s Nia-Malika Henderson said.
“We all loved her,” CNN’s Jamie Gangel said, remembering Ifill as smart, funny and fearless.
Ifill was a pioneer for women and for African Americans in journalism, becoming the first African American woman to host a major political talk show when she took the helm at “Washington Week in Review.”
Her path to prominence was hard-fought: While in college in the late 1970s, Ifill secured an internship at The Boston Herald.
“They didn’t know what a college-educated black woman was and they didn’t know how to treat me,” she once told The Washington Post. One day, she told the Post, a staffer left her a note in the photo lab that said “Nigger go home.” The editors were so apologetic about the issue that they hired Ifill after her 1977 graduation, she recalled.