Gwen Ifill, host of PBS NewsHour, dies at 61

PHOENIX – Gwen Ifill, veteran journalist and co-host of PBS NewsHour, has died after a battle with cancer. She was 61. According to a PBS statement, Ifill had been in treatment for “several months.”

Ifill was also the moderator of the Washington Week public affairs program, a position she held since 1999. After a successful career with the Baltimore Evening Sun and the Boston Herald American, Ifill moved to The Washington Post and later, The New York Times.

With a career spanning more than 30 years, Ifill brought her expertise to a Cronkite Day panel hosted at the Newseum in Washington D.C. this September for the celebration of Walter Cronkite’s 100th birthday.

While discussing young people and the role of public broadcasting in today’s media, Ifill said, “I would be despairing of my craft, of my profession, if I didn’t think there was another generation that was coming along to do it the right way. And to teach me things.”

Ifill was an advocate for diversity in newsrooms and in news coverage. Speaking at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2013, Ifill said diversity of voices in the news is critical not only for journalism but also for society.

“Too often we sit in our newsrooms and our lives complacent, and we react. The world races by us and we strain to catch up, and guess what happens when that happens? We get left behind,” Ifill said. “We can fix this. We must fix this. The best way to start doing it is by opening our doors wider, listening harder and knowing that (this) is not only the right thing to do as journalists, it’s our salvation.”

“I’ve always said that, to the extent that there is bias ever in the news coverage, it’s in the stories we don’t tell,” Ifiill told Arizona Horizon host Ted Simons in 2013. “And we don’t tell these stories because we don’t know anyone who is attuned to even see the stories sitting there.”

Ifill was also associated with the News Literacy Project, a program that teaches high school students and other consumers how to listen for truthful news. At the Newseum, Ifill spoke about the importance of teaching the next generation the basics of journalism.

“We want to be able to step away from this and make sure it’s still genuine and real,” she said. “We want to raise another generation of people who know that there’s a way to tell the story.”

Sara Just, an executive producer of PBS NewsHour said, “We will forever miss her terribly.”