Inspired By: Gwen Ifill

By: Cirien Saadeh, JAWS board member

As we continue our celebration of International Women’s Month, this week, JAWS honors Gwen Ifill, pioneering Black woman journalist.

When Ifill died at 61 in 2016, she had had a long, productive, and celebrated career as a journalist. After beginning at the Boston Herald-American, she moved rapidly upward through the national news ecosystem, from the Baltimore Evening Sun to the Washington Post to the PBS News-Hour, according to NBC News. During her rich career, Ifill had also worked for NBC News and The New York Times, and in 2009 published her book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.

Known for her political reporting, Ifill moderated the 2004 and 2008 vice presidential debates – all while paving the way for other Black journalists. Ifill was widely honored. Among many other awards and honors, she received a Peabody Award and a Harvard University Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism honoree. She stands in the Washington, D.C. Journalism Hall of Fame, placed there by the Society of Professional Journalists’ D.C. chapter, and in the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame. Ifill also received more than 20 honorary doctorates.

Born in New York City in 1955, Ifill had five siblings, four older and one younger. According to an article from Frontline, her mother hailed from Barbados and her father, a Methodist Episcopalian pastor, was from Panama. She grew up poor, at times living in federally subsidized housing. Her love of journalism, according to the Resilient Sisterhood Project, came from her family; when he was a child, her whole family came together in front of the TV to watch the nightly news.

Ifill’s death from cancer came just days before she was to be the first Black woman to receive the 2016 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism from Columbia University.

Did you know Gwen Ifill? Tell us your story by commenting here or on the Members Community website.

Photo from Wikipedia