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Gwen Ifill

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Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill
Gwen Ifill at a political rally in Erlanger, Kentucky in October 2010.
Born Gwendolyn L. Ifill
(1955-09-29) September 29, 1955
New York City, New York, USA
Education Simmons College
Occupation Journalist
Notable credit(s) The New York Times
News Hour with Jim Lehrer
The Washington Post
Washington Week

Gwendolyn L. "Gwen" Ifill (;[1] born September 29, 1955) is an American journalist, television newscaster and author. She is the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and co-anchor and co-managing editor, with Judy Woodruff, of PBS NewsHour, both of which air on PBS. She is a political analyst, and moderated the 2004 and 2008 Vice Presidential debates. She is the author of the book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
  • Published works 3
  • Vice-presidential debates 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life and education

Ifill was born in New York City, the fifth child[2] of African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister (Oliver) Urcille Ifill, Sr., a Panamanian of Barbadian descent who emigrated from Panama, and Eleanor Ifill, who was from Barbados.[3][4] Her father's ministry required the family to live in several cities throughout New England and the Eastern Seaboard during her youth. In her childhood, Ifill lived in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts church parsonages and in federally subsidized housing in Buffalo and New York City.[5] She graduated in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts.[6]


While at Simmons College, Ifill interned for the Boston Herald-American and was hired after graduation by editors deeply embarrassed by an incident during her internship in which a coworker wrote her a note that read, "Nigger go home."[5] Later she worked for the Baltimore Evening Sun (1981–84), The Washington Post (1984–91), The New York Times (1991–94), and NBC.[6]

In October 1999, she became the moderator of the PBS program Washington Week in Review. She is also senior correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. Ifill has appeared on various news shows, including Meet the Press.[7]

She serves on the board of the Harvard Institute of Politics, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Museum of Television and Radio, and the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.[7]

On February 7, 2011, Ifill was made an Honorary Member of Delta Sigma Theta during the sorority's 22nd Annual Delta Days in the Nation’s Capital.

With Kaitlyn Adkins, Ifill co-hosted Jamestown LIVE!, a 2007 History Channel special commemorating the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, Virginia.

The PBS ombudsman, Michael Getler, has twice written about the letters he's received complaining of bias in Ifill's news coverage. He dismissed complaints that Ifill appeared insufficiently enthusiastic about Sarah Palin's speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention, and concluded that Ifill had played a "solid, in my view, and central role in PBS coverage of both conventions."[8]

On August 6, 2013, the NewsHour named Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff as co-anchors and co-managing editors. They will share anchor duties Monday through Thursday with Woodruff going it alone on Friday.[9]

Published works

Ifill's first book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was released on January 20, 2009, Inauguration Day.[10][11] The book deals with several African American politicians, including Barack Obama and such other up-and-comers as Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and Newark, New Jersey, mayor Cory Booker. The publisher, Random House, describes the book as showing "why this is a pivotal moment in American history" through interviews with black power brokers and through Ifill's observations and analysis of issues.

Vice-presidential debates

On October 5, 2004, Ifill moderated the vice-presidential debate between Republican Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic candidate John Edwards. Howard Kurtz described the consensus that Ifill "acquitted herself well" as moderator.[12] Ifill also moderated the October 2, 2008, vice-presidential debate between Democratic Senator Joe Biden and Republican Governor Sarah Palin at Washington University in St. Louis.[13] The debate's format offered Ifill freedom to cover domestic or international issues.[14]

Before the 2008 debate, Ifill's objectivity was questioned by conservative talk radio, blogs and cable news programs as well as some independent media analysts because of her book The Breakthrough, which was scheduled to be released on Inauguration Day 2009 but whose contents had not been disclosed to the debate commission or the campaigns.[15] The book was mentioned in the Washington Times and appeared in trade catalogs as early as July 2008, well before Ifill was selected by the debate committee.[16] Several analysts viewed Ifill's book as creating a conflict of interest, including Kelly McBride of The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, who said, “Obviously the book will be much more valuable to her if Obama is elected.”[15] McCain said in an interview on Fox News Channel, "I think she will do a totally objective job because she is a highly respected professional." Asked about the forthcoming book, McCain responded, "Does this help...if she has written a book that's favorable to Senator Obama? Probably not. But I have confidence that Gwen Ifill will do a professional job."[17]

To critics, Ifill responded, "I've got a pretty long track record covering politics and news, so I'm not particularly worried that one-day blog chatter is going to destroy my reputation. The proof is in the pudding. They can watch the debate tomorrow night and make their own decisions about whether or not I've done my job."[18]

After the debate, Ifill received praise for her performance. The Boston Globe reported that she "is receiving high marks for equal treatment of the candidates."[19][20]

Ifill's moderation of the debates won her pop-culture recognition when the debates were parodied on Saturday Night Live with host and musical guest Queen Latifah portraying Ifill.


  • Ifill, Gwen (2009). The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (First ed.). New York: Doubleday.  


  1. ^ US dict: 
  2. ^ "After Words with Gwen Ifill".  
  3. ^ "Gwen Ifill Biography". Biography. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  4. ^ Carol Brennan (2008). "Black Biography: Gwen Ifill". Contemporary Black Biography. The Gale Group. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  5. ^ a b Claire Suddath (2 October 2008). "Debate Moderator Gwen Ifill". Time. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  6. ^ a b "Gwen Ifill". The Notable Names Database. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  7. ^ a b Russert, Tim and David Broder, John Dickerson, Gwen Ifill, Andrea Mitchell, Richard Wolffe (April 27, 2008). "Political Roundtable". Meet the Press (NBC). Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  8. ^ Michael Getler (September 5, 2008). "Ombudsman's Mailbag". The Ombudsman Column. PBS. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  9. ^ "'"GWEN IFILL, JUDY WOODRUFF TO CO-ANCHOR 'NEWSHOUR. AP. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  10. ^ Michael Calderone (1 October 2008). "Ifill's Book Was No Secret". Politico. Retrieved 2008-10-04. 
  11. ^ Evan Mantyk (1 October 2008). "VP Debate Moderator Writing Pro-Obama Book". Epoch Times. Retrieved 2008-10-04. 
  12. ^ Howard Kurtz (4 September 2008). "In a Historic Year, Ifill Has One Thing to Do: Her Job". The Washington Post. pp. A24. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  13. ^ Santucci, John (2008-08-05). "Who Gets to Ask the Tough Questions?". ABC News. Retrieved 2008-08-05. 
  14. ^ Dabid Bauder (21 September 2008). "Ifill hits jackpot in moderating VP debate". The Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-04. 
  15. ^ a b Jim Rutenberg (2 October 2008). "Moderator’s Planned Book Becomes a Topic of Debate". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  16. ^ "Today on the Presidential Campaign Trail". Washington Times. July 25, 2008. 
  17. ^ Boston Globe Staff And Associated Pres (2008-10-02). "VP debate moderator accused of bias". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  18. ^ Questions raised about moderator's impartiality, The Associated Press, October 1, 2008
  19. ^ Foon Rhee (2008-10-03). "Ifill proves the critics wrong". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  20. ^ James Rainey (2008-10-03). "Gwen Ifill was a true journalist: fair". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 

External links

  • Gwen Ifill at PBS NewsHour
  • Gwen Ifill at Washington Week
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Gwen Ifill at the Internet Movie Database
  • Gwen Ifill interview video at the Archive of American Television
  • Works by or about Gwen Ifill in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • 2004 Vice Presidential Debate Transcript
  • 2008 Vice Presidential Debate Transcript and video
  • Gwen Ifill interviewed by Michele Norris for PBS "An Evening with Gwen Ifill" in partnership with The HistoryMakers Airdate January 22, 2015
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