Long-time journalist and newscaster Gwen Ifill has passed away at the age of 61, PBS confirmed on Monday.
The Daily Beast learned that Ifill was diagnosed with endometrial cancer less than a year ago; and was, as someone who was extraordinarily private about her health, reluctant to publicly share the details of her battle. She was surrounded by family when she passed away.
“I am very sad to tell you that our dear friend and beloved colleague Gwen Ifill passed away today in hospice care in Washington,” WETA President and CEO Sharon Percy Rockefeller wrote in a staff-wide email obtained by Politico. “I spent an hour with her this morning and she was resting comfortably, surrounded by loving family and friends... Earlier today, I conveyed to Gwen the devoted love and affection of all of us at WETA/NewsHour. Let us hold Gwen and her family even closer now in our hearts and prayers.”
PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger added in a separate statement: “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. Her contributions to thoughtful reporting and civic discourse simply cannot be overstated. She often said that her job was to bring light rather than heat to issues of importance to our society. Gwen did this with grace and a steadfast commitment to excellence. Our sorrow at her passing is a part of our profound gratitude for all that she did for our system and our nation. It was an honor to know Gwen and to work with her. All of us at PBS express our sincere condolences to Gwen’s friends and family.”
Ifill was born in New York City on September 29, 1955, the fifth child of African Methodist Episcopal minister and his Barbadian wife. She graduated in 1977 from Simmons College with a Bachelor’s degree in communications and held jobs at the Baltimore Evening Sun, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and NBC before ultimately landing at PBS.
She was best known as being the moderator and managing editor of PBS roundtable talk show Washington Week—a position she held since joining the network in 1999. She was also a co-anchor of weeknight news broadcast PBS NewsHour, a job she shared with Judy Woodruff since 2013.
NewsHour’s executive producer Sara Just said in a statement that “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.”
She moderated two vice-presidential debates, between John Edwards and incumbent Dick Cheney in 2004; and between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden in 2008. Ifill also moderated a Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders just last year. She released her only book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, in 2009.