Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill, is an African American news anchor, journalist, TV personality, author and a writer by profession. She has written her fair share of pages in the history of journalism, starting in 1999, when she became the first African American woman to ever host a nationally televised U.S. public affairs program with Washington Week in Review.

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The veteran journalist came to life on September 29, 1955 and passed only recently, on November 14, 2016, at 61. She was a Native American, born in the Queens neighborhood of Jamaica, New York City, United States. Her father, Urcille Ifill, Sr. a politician and the minister at professional level of African Methodist Episcopal (AME), while her mother was Eleanor Ifill, a housewife for the most part.

Even though she is referred to as African American, Gwen is more like a citizen of the world; her father was a Panamanian of Barbadian descent who emigrated from Panama and her mother was from Barbados. So it seems that the African part has to do with her skin color. As it still happens with families whose members are involved professionally in politics, Urcille’s ministry required the whole family to constantly move in various cities between New England, and the Eastern Seaboard where he pastored AME churches. As a result, the ‘American Peabody Award-winning journalist’ lived in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts as well as Buffalo and New York City.

It is probably due to that constant moving from city to city, that her childhood remains unknown for the most part. It is easy however to assume that as a child she gained a lot of information and awareness about various issues affairs and later on pursued her interest to opt journalism as a career and that too specialized towards political debates and issues. The public record of Gwen’s school years actually starts with her graduation in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Simmons College, a women's college in Boston, Massachusetts.

She was an intelligent student while at college and participated in many speeches and public affairs events there and gained much popularity because of stupendous performance and knowledge there. While at college she did an internship with the Boston Herald-American, which is an American newspaper and is very popular. then joined multiple other firms like The New York Times, Baltimore Evening Sun, The Washington Post and NBC.

The first newspaper mentioned above hired Gwen upon her graduation. Surprisingly, that was the result of a note that she found one day on her desk which read “Nigger go home”. The editors of the newspaper were obviously horrified and offered her a permanent position fearing that if they didn’t, the legal extent of that note and the outburst of the public outcry would have a major impact on the newspaper.

On the other hand, one of Ifill's friends, Michele Norris, said that Ifill "said that was really unfortunate, but I have work to do and that's how — that's how she got the job. She didn't get the job out of sympathy. She got the job because she didn't let that slow her down." In any case, Gwen kept working for the most renowned newspapers until 1999, when she started moderating the PBS program Washington Week in Review, hence becoming the first black woman to ever host a political talk show on television that was casted nation-wide.

In 2004 she wrote history in the field of journalism for the second time, by being the first black woman to moderate a vice-presidential debate. At the time the debate was between the Republican Vice President Dick Cheney and the Democratic candidate and U.S. Senator from North Carolina John Edwards. In 2008 she moderated once more the vice-presidential debate between the Democratic U.S. Senator from Delaware Joe Biden and the Republican governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, at Washington University, in St. Louis.

In August 2013, Ifill became co-anchors and co-managing editors of NewsHour with Judy Woodruff. As you can guess, the two women made history once again, as the first women to ever anchor a network news program.

Aside from being a successful television newscaster, the ‘American Peabody Award-winning journalist’ has also published a book titled The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. It circulated in 2009 and according to its back cover, in that book “Ifill surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential victory and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.”

Gwen was also known to have gained so much weight in the middle of her career that she had to undergo an extensive weight loss program thanks to which she was finally able to reduce a lot of weight primarily because of strict diet regime and extensive exercising. What’s interesting is that she spoke about her relationships and whether she had a partner or not or whether she ever married any of her past boyfriends or not is still not known.

One thing is certain; she did not like to talk much about her personal life on social media or on TV interviews and talk shows. Of course, being an African American woman who strives to become an achieved journalist in her age, was a ridiculously difficult goal and it surely came with a number of sacrifices. One of those was undoubtedly, her personal life. She either had a poor one – if any – or tried to keep it away from the public eye by all means in order to protect her career.

Gwen earned a lot of reputation working in various news shows and because of her hard work throughout her whole journalism career, she also earned the right to take home a hefty annual salary thanks to her contracts with the channel PBS. While in life, she had an estimated net worth of around 5 million.

Of course that did not matter towards the end, when died of breast and endometrial cancer. "Gwen was one of America's leading lights in journalism and a fundamental reason public media is considered a trusted window on the world by audiences across the nation," Paula Kerger, the PBS president and CEO, said commenting Gwen’s death.

Even former President Barack Obama said a few words concerning the passing of the pioneering journalist. “Whether she reported from the convention floor or from the field, whether she sat at the debate moderator’s table or the anchor’s desk, she not only informed today’s citizens, she also inspired tomorrow’s journalists,” President Obama said. “She was an especially powerful role model for young women and girls who admired her integrity, her tenacity and her intellect, and for whom she blazed a trail as one half of the first all-female network anchor team on network news.”

All in all, Gwen Ifill was successful in all aspects of her life. Her contribution to the field of journalism shall be remembered through the years and used to educate, inspire and motivate younger generations. RIP Gwen.

Quick Facts
Birth Date: 29 Sep, 1955
Age: 64 yrs
Occupations: News presenter
Citizenship: United States of America
Birth Place: New York City
Education: Simmons University
Gender: Female
Description: American journalist, television newscaster and author
Net Worth 2021: 4 million
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Last Modified: Jun 27 2020
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