The month of November brought the loss of a prominent African-American journalist who broke ground throughout her career. Gwen Ifill died at the age of 61 from complications from breast and endrometrial cancer.
Ifill’s nearly four decade career began in 1977 as an intern at the Boston Herald-American. After she found a racially charged note on her desk, the editors of the paper decided to offer her a permanent position upon her college graduation. Soon Ifill was making a name for herself in the journalism field accepting positions at the Baltimore Evening Sun and Washington Post. In 1991 she began covering The White House as a reporter for the New York Times and by 1994 she was on television with NBC as a reporter on Capitol Hill.
But it was her role as a moderator of Washington Week in Review on PBS that cemented her status as a groundbreaking journalist. Ifill became the first African-American female to host a nationally televised political talk show. This past spring Ifill co-moderated a Democratic primary debate between Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
Ifill’s contributions kept coming as she served on various boards including the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism and the Harvard Institute of Politics. She was also the author of “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” which spotlighted various African-American politicians, including President Barrack Obama.
In a news conference after her death President Obama called Ifill a friend and an “extraordinary journalist.”
Judy Woodruff, Ifill’s co-anchor described her as someone who loved to tell stories and help others understand what was happening in the world. She called her a role model, especially “for young women of color.”
Ifill prided herself on being an unbiased reporter of the facts. “My job as a reporter is not to know what I think,” she once said.