(WXXI News and NPR) Gwen Ifill, one of the most prominent African-American journalists in the country, has died, according to PBS. She was 61, and had been battling cancer.
Ifill, the host of PBS' Washington Week, was a veteran Washington journalist who covered seven presidential campaigns and moderated the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008. Ifill was also the best-selling author of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.
Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, said Ifill was "a fundamental reason public media is considered a trusted window on the world."
"Her contributions to thoughtful reporting and civic discourse simply cannot be overstated," Kerger said. "She often said that her job was to bring light rather than heat to issues of importance to our society. Gwen did this with grace and steadfast commitment to excellence."
Ray Suarez, who started working on the PBS Newshour on the same day as Ifill in 1999, told Here and Now that Ifill was a mix of things.
"She was evenhanded, yet tenacious," Suarez said. "She was exteriorly cool, if that's even a word, but at the same time very emotionally and passionately committed to the work she did."
Ifill started her journalism career as a print reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sunand the Boston Herald American. She went on to become a national political reporter for The Washington Post and the White House correspondent for The New York Times.
Gwen Ifill came to Rochester for a visit to WXXI in January 2010. She spoke to more than 200 guests at a luncheon.
She shared stories about her work as a journalist and about her best-selling book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. She also took many questions from the audience.
(you can watch the video of Ifill's comments in Rochester at the end of this story)
WXXI President & CEO Norm Silverstein was a friend of Gwen Ifill, and released this statement:
"I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my friend and colleague. Gwen Ifill. I have known Gwen for nearly 40 years, since we were both young reporters covering Maryland politics.
She broke many barriers, from the highest levels in print journalism to NBC News to co-anchoring PBS NewsHour. She was also a moderator for presidential debates.
She had many fans in the Greater Rochester area and just recently we were talking about her coming back to visit us in the spring.
Gwen will be greatly missed by everyone who admired her as a journalist and as a member of the PBS family."
You can also watch PBS NewsHour's remembrance of Gwen Ifill here.
Here's the video of her appearance at WXXI in Rochester in 2010.