When Gwen Ifill, the co-anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” died Monday after a two-year battle with cancer, accolades from fellow journalists and political figures poured in. Ms. Ifill, who was 61, broke down barriers of race and gender at a time when the news industry was just beginning to understand the importance of diverse news staffs.
She began her distinguished career as a print journalist whose byline graced The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The New York Times. In 1994, NBC newsman Tim Russert encouraged Ms. Ifill to leave print for a career in broadcast journalism. Hired by NBC, Ms. Ifill covered Capitol Hill for five years until 1999, when she moved to PBS to host “Washington Week.”
In doing so, Ms. Ifill became the first black woman to host a major political talk show. Her ease and mastery of the format made it possible for the news executives who did the hiring to imagine journalists of color in roles they had never been seen in before.
In 2013, Ms. Ifill made history again by teaming with Judy Woodruff as co-managing editor and co-anchor of “PBS NewsHour.” All along the way, Ms. Ifill took it upon herself to encourage young journalists, especially African-Americans who approached the profession with a sense of wariness, to pursue their dreams with gusto.
It will be difficult to imagine Washington journalism without Gwen Ifill, a towering figure calmly assessing the day’s events. Her presence will be deeply missed.