Through my many years in broadcast journalism, I never met Gwen Ifill, but I'm sure glad she came our way. Hearing news of her passing yesterday after a months long bout with cancer, brought me to tears, and more tears have flowed at various points since then, as I hear tribute after tribute.
Gwen Ifill, who co-anchored the PBS News Hour, was referred to as "a journalist’s journalist," and every single thing I have heard about her has been positive. Last night, everyone was reporting her death and her own program devoted much of it's time to memories of her.
One of her contemporaries said that her office almost looked like a museum because of all the trophies and awards. Earlier this year she added to the many, receiving the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism from Columbia University. Oh and she's received more than twenty honorary doctorates.
I was touched by her strong faith too. She was a minister's daughter, and that frequently means you run away from the church, but she was very involved. Her pastor said yesterday that she was present each week for worship
I remember the Gwen Ifill years at NBC, because during part of that time, I worked for an NBC affiliate. Her former colleague Pete Williams was brought to tears yesterday several times when he tried to report on her life. Former NewsHour reporter Charlayne Hunter-Gault began sobbing as well. Fighting back his own tears, CNN's Don Lemon closed his thoughts to Gwen Ifill with: "I won't say goodbye, because goodbyes are so hard. But I will say, so long and thank you."
There are countless stories that I could retell here, but the biggest thing is that she made a difference. She was a trailblazer for African Americans and for women and she was a mentor to many. She was fair and honest and she was always real. Gwen Ifill will be missed.