In a year of shocking deaths, it’s been reported that journalist Gwen Ifill has died. She was only 61-years-old.
According to Politico, the longtime news anchor who served as a co-host of PBS’s NewsHour and moderator of “Washington Week,” lost her battle to cancer on Monday.
“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 an email to her staff.
“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.”
Ifill, who was a constant presence in past presidential elections and even moderated two Vice-Presidential debates in 2004 and 2008, was noticeably absent in this year’s coverage due to ongoing health issues, Politico noted. And back in May, she even took a leave of absence to seek medical treatment, but never stated publicly what the treatment was for. According to The Daily Beast, Ifill was diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago and was surrounded by family when she passed away in hospice care.
PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger wrote 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 graduated from Simmons College in Boston and began writing professionally for the Boston Herald-American. Through out her illustrious career, she was also a reporter for The Washington Post, The New York Times and NBC News before settling in her position as moderator for “Washington Week in Review” in 1999. She was also the best-selling author of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.
Most important, Ifill was a trailblazer for African-Americans and women in the newsroom, reminding us that it is possible to break through in a field that was dominated—and continues to be dominated—by mostly white men. In a 2013 interview with The New York Times, she spoke about what her visibility in media could mean to a new generation of aspiring journalists.
“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 said. “I’m very keen about the fact that a little girl now, watching the news, when they see me and Judy [Woodruff] 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, ” she said.
Hundreds, including her colleagues, flocked to Twitter to express their sadness around her death:
She was truly an inspiration to us all. RIP Gwen.
This is a developing story and we will provide updates as they become available.