Journalist Gwen Ifill, who most recently co-anchored PBS NewsHour, passed away Monday afternoon from cancer. She was 61. While Ifill took medical leave in May and last week, she did not disclose her illness.
Sara Just, the executive producer of NewsHour, said in a statement:
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.
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.
Ifill started her career at the Boston Herald-American and later went to work at the Washington Post and the New York Times. Ifill then switched to television, working for NBC. Ifill jumped to PBS in 1999, hosting Washington Week while contributing to NewsHour. In 2013, Ifill and Judy Woodruff were named co-anchors of NewsHour, the first all-female co-hosting team in television evening news.
She also moderated two vice presidential debates, in 2004 and 2008. Ifill was also scheduled to receive the John Chancellor Award from Columbia University on Wednesday.
Woodruff said, “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 any more, but her mark on this program and on American journalism will endure.”
President Obama also spoke about Ifill during his Monday press conference, calling her an “extraordinary journalist” and saying, “Whether she reported from a convention floor or from the field, whether she sat at the debate moderator’s table or at the anchor desk, she not only informed today’s citizens, but she also inspired tomorrow’s journalists. 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 anchor team on network news.”
Speaker Ryan tweeted, “I am saddened to learn about the passing of Gwen Ifill—an incredibly talented and respected journalist.”