Gwen Ifill dies at 61 after decades-long career as journalist and general badass

On Monday, PBS confirmed that the anchor of PBS NewsHour, Gwen Ifill, died at the age of 61 after a long, quiet battle with cancer. Ifill wasn’t just a journalist in the truest sense of the word, she’s long been the face of public media, has covered seven presidential campaigns as one of the first “women on the bus,” and was a role model for many women in media.

Sara Just, PBS NewsHour executive producer, said in a statement to Variety,“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.” Just added, “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 also moderated the vice-presidential debates in 2004 and 2008 and wrote a book called, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama that was published on inauguration day in 2009. It’s a shame for everyone that she won’t be around to maintain perspective about this upcoming one.

Ifill started out as a reporter at The Baltimore Evening Sun in 1981. She also worked at The Washington Post and The New York Times covering Congress and political campaigns. Eventually, she became the moderator of Washington Week and the co-anchor of PBS NewsHour with Judy Woodruff. They were also co-managing editors — so they were in control of pretty much the entire broadcast as the first ever all female-led news broadcast. You might remember that Woodriff and Ifill moderated a debate between Vermont Senator Bernie Sander and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ifill was lauded for her questioning of the candidates about race relations and Black Lives Matter.

Public television station WETA CEO Sharon Percy Rockefeller said in a statement to staff on Monday, “I spent an hour with her this morning and she was resting comfortably, surrounded by loving family and friends … Let us hold Gwen and her family even closer now in our hearts and prayers.”

Ifill died in hospice after being absent from PBS’ election coverage the last week because of her health.

It’s a huge loss for her family, friends, and really anyone who watches the news.