Major Journalist Dies At 61

Gwen Ifill, award-winning journalist and co-anchor of PBS' Newshour, passed away on Monday after [...]

Gwen Ifill, award-winning journalist and co-anchor of PBS' Newshour, passed away on Monday after battling with cancer. She was 61 years old, and died at a hospice facility.

PBS CEO and president Paula Kerger said, "Her contributions to thoughtful reporting and civic discourse simply cannot be overstated." Kerger continued by saying, "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."

Gwen Ifill
(Photo: PBS Newshour)

PBS NewsHour released this statement on Monday: "It is with extremely heavy hearts that we must share that our dear friend and beloved colleague Gwen Ifill passed away this afternoon following several months of cancer treatment. She was surrounded by loving family and many friends whom we ask that you keep in your thoughts and prayers."

Ifill will be most remembered for moderating two presidential debates including the 2004 debate between John Edwards and Dick Cheney and again in 2008 with Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, according to New York Post. She also penned a 2009 best-seller titled The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.

"Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change," NewsHour executive producer Sara Just said.

Earlier this year, Ifill took a leave of absence from her post with NewsHour due to illness that was undisclosed at the time.

"She was a mentor to so many across the industry and her professionalism was respected across the political spectrum," Just said. "She was a journalist's journalist and set an example for all around her."

Gwen Ifill was one of the few African-American women with a high-profile position in television news. Ifill was aware of how special that was also she was going to be a pioneer for women of color everywhere.

When the announcement was made that Ifill earned the anchor position on NewsHour with Judy Woodruff, Ifill said: "When I was a little girl watching programs like this — because that's the kind of nerdy family we were — I would look up and not see anyone who looked like me in any way. No women. No people of color,"

"I'm very keen about the fact that a little girl now, watching the news, when they see me and Judy sitting side by side, it will occur to them that that's perfectly normal — that it won't seem like any big breakthrough at all," Ifill said.

According to her bio on PBS, Gwen Ifill grew up in New York City and was a graduate from Simmons College in Boston.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gwen Ifill's family during this difficult time.

[H/T New York Post, Politico]