On Monday afternoon, PBS confirmed that their longtime Washington Week anchor and NewsHour host Gwen Ifill had died at 61. With her death, the nation has lost a brilliant journalist, a talented debate moderator, and an admirable role model for many young girls. As one of the most well-known African American journalists in the country, Ifill for three years sat beside her co-anchor, Judy Woodruff, delivering the news in a way that was more groundbreaking than some could imagine.
Ifill had reportedly been battling cancer for some time now, having taken time off from work in May and this past week. According to Politico, WETA CEO Sharon Percy Rockefeller wrote an email to the staff of Washington D.C.'s PBS station informing the staff of Ifill's death. It read:
I am very sad to tell you that our dear friend and beloved colleague Gwen Ifill passed away today in hospice care in Washington. 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.
Most people might recently remember Ifill from her role moderating a presidential primary debate between Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and perhaps from the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008. But others might remember how they felt when she and Woodruff were named as co-hosts for PBS NewsHour in 2013, taking over for the two men who had created and anchored the show. When she was appointed to the job, she told The New York Times:
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. 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.
Before Ifill was showing girls on TV that they could do anything they wanted, she worked in print as a reporter for The Baltimore Evening Sun, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. She also used her skills to write a best-selling book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.
Journalists and PBS viewers alike have taken to social media to mourn Ifill and everything she brought to the table. Whether saying she was a trailblazer who "represented the best of broadcast journalism" or that she will "be missed as we move into a moment where we would have needed her most," it seems many throughout the nation are keenly feeling the loss of the legacy Ifill leaves behind.