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Gwen Ifill (Getty Images).


Longtime PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill dies at 61

By WITW Staff on November 14, 2016

Veteran journalist Gwen Ifill, the anchor of NewsHour on PBS and the moderator of Washington Week, died Monday at the age of 61 after a battle with cancer, the network announced. Ifill, beloved in the industry, was also known for her talents as a debate moderator during election season. Earlier this year, she moderated a primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and in years past she’d moderated vice presidential debates between Dick Cheney and John Edwards, and Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

Ifill was missing from PBS’ election coverage last week due to issues with her health and had taken leave earlier in the year to deal with health problems, though, according to The Associated Press, she kept her battle with cancer secret from the public.

“Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change. 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,” PBS NewsHour executive producer Sara Just said in a statement. “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.”

According to Politico, Ifill started her career as a reporter at the Boston Herald-American before moving on to reporting positions at The Washington Post, The New York Times, and NBC. In 1999, Ifill became a moderator for PBS’ Washington Week in Review and had been with the network ever since. In 2013, Ifill and Judy Woodruff became the first female anchor team to helm a news show on PBS when they were appointed as anchors of NewsHour. In an interview with The New York Times, Ifill said, “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. She added, “I’m very keen about the fact that a little girl now, watching the news, when they see me and Judy 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.”

Less than two months ago, just before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump squared off in their first presidential debate, Ifill appeared at Colorado College and gave students her analysis of what to expect. It’s a rare opportunity to see a contrast between the two candidates on any issue,” she said in response to a question. “I would like to hear the contrast between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on climate change — and find out how informed either of them is.” She went on to tell students an anecdote about her first debate moderating experience, in 2004 with Dick Cheney and John Edwards, saying “I always say if I had a chance to do it again, the questions would be different.” Watch a brief clip below of her during that appearance and the question she asked that stumped both candidates.