Veteran Journalist Gwen Ifill Dies at 61

The legendary journalist was a model and inspiration for many black women in media.

Gwen Ifill Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Gwen Ifill, the legendary and beloved journalist who provided a blueprint for many black women in media, has died after a hard-fought battle with cancer, PBS NewsHour has confirmed; she was 61:

Ifill was co-managing editor of PBS NewsHour and managing editor of Washington Week. In February, Ifill moderated a debate between Democratic presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. She was the first black woman to moderate a presidential debate during the 2016 election cycle, and the first woman of color to moderate a presidential debate since Carole Simpson in 1992.

Ifill, the author of 2009’s The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, previously moderated the 2004 and 2008 vice presidential debates.

As previously reported by The Root, in August Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism announced that Ifill had been awarded the 2016 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism. She is the first African-American recipient in the award’s 21-year history.

Ifill received over 25 honorary doctorates and sat on the boards of the News Literary Project and the Committee to Protect Journalists, among many other accomplishments.

“Gwen was a standard-bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change. She was a mentor to so many across the industry, and her professionalism was respected across the political spectrum. She was a journalist’s journalist and set an example for all around her,” PBS NewsHour Executive Producer Sara Just said in a statement. “So many people in the audience felt that they knew and adored her. She had a tremendous combination of warmth and authority. She was stopped on the street routinely by people who just wanted to give her a hug and considered her a friend after years of seeing her on TV. We will forever miss her terribly.”

Kirsten West Savali is a cultural critic and an associate editor at The Root. She was awarded the 2016 Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence which honors exemplary reporting on black life in America. She was also named to Ebony magazine’s 2015 “Power 100” list and awarded a 2015 Harry Frank Guggenheim fellowship. Her provocative commentary explores the intersections of race, social justice, religion, feminism, politics and pop culture. Follow her on Twitter.