America lost a media trailblazer this week with the passing of Gwen Ifill, co-anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour. She was a woman of unparalleled integrity, unstoppable spirit and character. There will never be another.
This past summer when the Republican National Convention visited Cleveland, where I live, my husband and I decided to drive downtown and enjoy the excitement of a major political convention in our city. We walked along the trendy East Fourth Street area, which served as home to all of the national media posts. Well-known reporters, news anchors, and commentators were everywhere, mixing and mingling with visitors and conducting interviews in the street. My eye scanned the crowd, and there she was – Gwen Ifill – eating a light lunch at a sidewalk cafe. She smiled that stunning smile and was gracious as people approached her.
When you read about her journey as an award-winning journalist, and hear her personal story of humble beginnings, you are reminded that any person who has a dream can pursue and achieve it.
“Journalists are accused of being lapdogs when they don’t ask the hard questions, but then accused of being rude when they do. Good thing we have tough hides.” Gwen Ifill
Gwen Ifill knew how to ask the tough questions, and she never backed down. Her professionalism and level of intelligence were at their finest in her role as a political debate moderator. The questions she asked were thought provoking, and she brought a certain level of authority, responsibility, and respect to the role.
She encountered discrimination, racism and bigotry in her life, yet she remained undaunted and focused on her dream, her future. The integrity of her work demonstrated that she was not only capable; she was the best in the business. She led by example, was a trusted friend and advisor to many, and served as a mentor to many young women coming up through the ranks. That example continues to provide hope to young women, especially women of color.
I can only imagine the conversation she is enjoying now – on that other plane – with longtime friend and fellow journalist Tim Russert, who also left this earth too early. Oh, what a great reunion.
Reflecting on all that Gwen Ifill accomplished in her lifetime encourages me to be a better person. May we all as professionals look to her example for inspiration as we strive to succeed in our careers and in life.