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Gwen Ifill
Born Gwendolyn Ifill
September 29, 1955 (1955-09-29) (age 54)
New York City, New York, USA
Education Simmons College
Occupation Journalist
Notable credit(s) The New York Times
News Hour with Jim Lehrer
The Washington Post
Washington Week

Gwendolyn L. "Gwen" Ifill (pronounced /ˈaɪfəl/, us dict: gwĕn′·də·lĭn īf′·əl; born September 29, 1955) is an American journalist, television newscaster and author. She is the managing editor and moderator for Washington Week (PBS) and a senior correspondent for The NewsHour (PBS). She is a political analyst, and moderated the 2004 and 2008 Vice Presidential debates. She is the author of the book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.


Early years

Ifill was born in New York City, the fifth child[1] of African Methodist Episcopal minister, (Oliver) Urcille Ifill, Sr., a Panamanian of Barbadian descent who emigrated from Panama, and Eleanor Ifill, who was also from Barbados.[2][3][4] Her father's ministry required the family to live in several cities throughout New England and the Eastern Seaboard during her youth. In her childhood Ifill lived in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts church parsonages and in federally subsidized housing in Buffalo and New York City.[5] She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts in 1977.[6]


While at Simmons College, Ifill interned for the Boston Herald-American and was hired after graduation by editors deeply embarrassed by an incident during her internship in which a co-worker left a note for her that read "Nigger go home."[5] Later she worked for the Baltimore Evening Sun (1981-1984), The Washington Post (1984-1991), The New York Times (1991-1994), and NBC.[6]

In October 1999, she became moderator of the PBS program Washington Week in Review. She is also senior correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. Ifill has appeared on various news shows, including Meet the Press.[7]

She serves on the board of the Harvard Institute of Politics, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Museum of Television and Radio and the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.[7]

With Kaitlyn Adkins, Ifill co-hosted Jamestown LIVE!, a 2007 History Channel special commemorating the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, Virginia.

The Ombudsman for PBS, Michael Getler, has twice written about the letters he's received complaining of bias in Ifill's news coverage. He dismissed complaints that Ifill appeared insufficiently enthusiastic about Sarah Palin's speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention, and concluded that Ifill had played a "solid, in my view, and central role in PBS coverage of both conventions."[8]

First book

Ifill's first book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was released January 20, 2009, Inauguration Day.[9][10] The book deals with several African American politicians, including Barack Obama as well as other up-and-coming black politicians such as Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker. The publisher, Random House, says of the book: "Drawing on interviews with power brokers like Senator Obama, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and many others, as well as her own razor-sharp observations and analysis of such issues as generational conflict and the 'black enough' conundrum, Ifill shows why this is a pivotal moment in American history."

Vice-presidential debates

On October 5, 2004, Ifill moderated the vice-presidential debate between Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat John Edwards. Howard Kurtz described the consensus that Ifill "acquitted herself well" as moderator.[11]

Ifill also moderated the October 2, 2008 vice-presidential debate between Democratic Senator Joe Biden and Republican Governor Sarah Palin at Washington University in St. Louis.[12] The debate's format offered Ifill freedom to cover domestic or international issues.[13]

Prior to the 2008 Vice-Presidential debate, Ifill's objectivity was questioned by conservative talk radio, blogs and cable news programs, as well as some independent media analysts, because of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, which was scheduled to be released on Inauguration Day, 2009, but whose contents had not been disclosed to the debate commission or the campaigns.[14] The book was reported in the Washington Times and appeared in trade catalogs as early as July 2008, well before Ifill was selected by the debate committee.[15] Several analysts viewed Ifill's book as creating a conflict of interest, including Kelly McBride of The Poynter Institute for Media Studies who said, “Obviously the book will be much more valuable to her if Obama is elected.”[14] McCain said in an interview on Fox News Channel, "I think she will do a totally objective job because she is a highly respected professional." Asked about the forthcoming book by Ifill, McCain responded, "Does this help...if she has written a book that's favorable to Senator Obama? Probably not. But I have confidence that Gwen Ifill will do a professional job."[16]

To critics, Ifill responded, "I've got a pretty long track record covering politics and news, so I'm not particularly worried that one-day blog chatter is going to destroy my reputation. The proof is in the pudding. They can watch the debate tomorrow night and make their own decisions about whether or not I've done my job."[17]

After the debate, Ifill received praise for her performance. The Boston Globe reported that she "is receiving high marks for equal treatment of the candidates."[18][16]


  • Ifill, Gwen (2009). The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (First edition ed.). New York: Doubleday. ISBN 9780385525015.  


  1. ^ "Gwen Ifill". After Words. C-SPAN. 2009-01-31. 1:45 minutes in.
  2. ^ "Gwen Ifill Biography". Biography. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-18.  
  3. ^ Carol Brennan (2008). "Black Biography: Gwen Ifill". Contemporary Black Biography. The Gale Group. Retrieved 2008-09-18.  
  4. ^ Gwen Ifill (9 March 2006). "RTNDF First Amendment Awards Dinner". Radio and Television News Directors Foundation. Retrieved 2008-10-04.  
  5. ^ a b Claire Suddath (2 October 2008). "Debate Moderator Gwen Ifill". Time.,8599,1846354,00.html. Retrieved 2008-10-03.  
  6. ^ a b "Gwen Ifill". The Notable Names Database. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-06.  
  7. ^ a b Russert, Tim and David Broder, John Dickerson, Gwen Ifill, Andrea Mitchell, Richard Wolffe (April 27, 2008). "Political Roundtable". Meet the Press (NBC). Retrieved 2008-04-27.  
  8. ^ Michael Getler (September 5, 2008). "Ombudsman's Mailbag". The Ombudsman Column. PBS. Retrieved 2009-02-02.  
  9. ^ Michael Calderone (1 October 2008). "Ifill's Book Was No Secret". Politico. Retrieved 2008-10-04.  
  10. ^ Evan Mantyk (1 October 2008). "VP Debate Moderator Writing Pro-Obama Book". Epoch Times. Retrieved 2008-10-04.  
  11. ^ Howard Kurtz (4 September 2008). "In a Historic Year, Ifill Has One Thing to Do: Her Job". The Washington Post: pp. A24. Retrieved 2008-10-05.  
  12. ^ Santucci, John (2008-08-05). "Who Gets to Ask the Tough Questions?". ABC News. Retrieved 2008-08-05.  
  13. ^ Dabid Bauder (21 September 2008). "Ifill hits jackpot in moderating VP debate". The Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-04.  
  14. ^ a b Jim Rutenberg (2 October 2008). "Moderator’s Planned Book Becomes a Topic of Debate". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-01.  
  15. ^ "Today on the Presidential Campaign Trail", Washington Times, July 25  
  16. ^ a b Boston Globe Staff And Associated Pres (2008). "VP debate moderator accused of bias". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-10-03].  
  17. ^ Questions raised about moderator's impartiality, The Associated Press, October 1, 2008
  18. ^ James Rainey (2008). "Gwen Ifill was a true journalist: fair". The Los Angeles Times.,0,4286442.story. Retrieved 2008-10-03.  

External links



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