She always saw me. And that was always enough.
Tears come easily to me, and they have flowed freely in the last week. But I didn't know I had so many more left.
I'm sipping coffee from my NewsHour mug as I write this, wondering how to wake up from it all.
I was a shy 23-year-old when I first arrived at the NewsHour in 2012. I felt like a kid among giants then.
Gwen noticed me early. She wanted me to break out of my shell; I always understood that. But she never forced it. She smiled broadly, diffused discomfort with her witty jokes and her perfect side eye, and laughed loudly. Over time, I allowed myself to feel comfortable, and laugh loudly with her. She never shied from emotion.
She never leaned in expectantly when I raised my voice. She sat back, nodded respectfully, and supported my words with her own. When she challenged me, she did so gently. I sensed the approval in her eyes when I spoke, and cherished the slight smile at the corners of her mouth when she liked one of my pieces. That was all the validation I needed.
I will miss her hugs the most. They were warm and tight. Sometimes the tears would come when I felt alone at my desk, and I'd go to her office, trying to keep composure and maintain professionalism as I sought her guidance. She always offered it with grace, and with a hug. No matter who you were, you felt safe in her arms.
Gwen was my hero. And she will always be my role model. Thank you for believing in me, Gwen. I'm slowly beginning to believe in myself.
in a 24 hr news cycle I got more perspective watching Gwen Ifill for 30 minutes than anyone else. She will be missed.
Around midnight, I was sitting in my office, staring at my PBS NewsHour mug. I haven't used it as much as I expected to since moving to Milwaukee. It's mostly a receptacle for extra packets of soy sauce. That mug has followed me from city to city since leaving the NewsHour.
Almost a year ago I landed in Milwaukee to work on a radio project. On Monday, I arrived at the recording studio and got a text from a friend in Washington telling me that Gwen Ifill had been moved to hospice. The news was only meant to be shared within the NewsHour family. And after 3 years away, I was still family.
I recorded my radio piece this week with tears in my throat. Still, I thought: "I have time." There was time to write her, to tell her what she has meant to me.
I walked back to my office, ready to work and planning to write a letter once I was done. I wasn't fast enough. As soon as I sat down, I learned that Gwen had died. After moving so fast, time began to slow down.
I called a friend -- another former NewsHour employee who is still part of the family. She cried. My eyes swelled, but the tears stopped themselves. I was in disbelief.
And then I saw the Washington Post news update on my computer. And the AP alert on phone. And an NPR statement on facebook. Then Politico, CBS, Yahoo...
It's strange to mourn a public figure that meant so much to you privately as well. But for some reason I needed to see the headlines in order to believe it. I guess folks at the NewsHour would be proud that I verified the information so many times before accepting it as fact.
I wanted to see what the NewsHour was saying. I couldn't find anything on the site. Of course they would be the last to report the news -- now was no time to break with tradition...
After hitting "refresh" over and over again I saw the full-screen picture of her, in a sharp black suit, smiling widely as she talked on the phone. Yes, I know the picture was probably staged. But it could have been real -- that woman loved her work. And she was uncompromising in it.
I guess that's why I stuck around the office so long and continued to fidget with my piece even in bed, placing soundwave after soundwave against one another, digging for the right ambient sound to build my piece when all I wanted to do was sleep for the rest of the week. Now was not the time to half-ass anything. A process that normally takes 3-4 hours took closer to 12 because I'd been functioning through a cloud of tears and crying headaches. Oh well... I sure as hell wasn't going to put out mediocre work after losing someone that set the bar so high.
I started at the NewsHour at 21. I had the good fortune to grow up in a newsroom where women ran the show, and a loud, charismatic, whip-smart black woman stole it.
Gwen meant as much to my life in leaving as in my years there. I once wrote to her, unsure of my next steps and not quite confident enough to believe in the winding path I was on at the moment. In her response she said: ''My best advice to you would be to stop thinking of yourself as a mess. You are a talented, outgoing and adventurous soul who is doing all the things now that will allow you to do whatever you want later."
Gwen inspired me to believe in my own sense of wonder and exploration. She encouraged me to revel in the moments when my life felt uncertain -- and to just enjoy the ride.
I feel so grateful to have worked with, learned from, and been touched by the #blackgirlmagic of Gwen Ifill.
I used to straighten my hair for TV appearances, a medium not exactly welcoming of naturals and locks. I showed up to Gwen Ifill's show with straight hair and she gave me a side eye and said, gently, 'You know you don't have to do that here.'
Words, or some version of them, never quite arrived prepared as they fell from my mouth this past week. But if there ever was a moment of needed clarity, this is it: Gwen Ifill has died.
The news has weighed heavily on PBS NewsHour staff. We held her in such esteem, such adoration. Personally, it mattered so much for me to work in a newsroom under her tutelage. I regret not asking her more about her experience in journalism.
But there's ample tape of her voice, her laughter, her subtle amusement when a politician was telling a half-truth. I loved seeing her dance on the monitors, moments before the program. I loved seeing the Gwen-Judy fist bump after the hell that was conventions.
My face was beet-red when she happily noticed that I wore a suit to the NewsHour's interview with President Barack Obama years ago. She made me blush again when a wore another suit to a company X-mas party. At one point at the get-together, she fixed my janky collar. She smiled as she did this. She wanted me to come correct. I didn't always do this. I'll work on this, Gwen.
Thing is, Gwen knew this industry. By "knew," I mean she had to deal with decades of being among the few people of color in a newsroom. This is an extremely difficult path to navigate, then and now.
"When I got in, I had to prove to them that I could write, that I could meet a deadline, that I could be a good colleague in a newsroom, in a newsroom environment where, once again, I was one of very few people of color," Gwen told Julian Bond in 2009 for the Explorations in Black Leadership Series. "Just getting in the door isn't enough."
"It's nice that the door opens, but then what do you do once you walk through it? That was the next challenge for me," she said.
Post-election, I needed to hear this story again. I won't forget it.
Gwen Ifill was a role model to me and to every woman, especially black women who took up the calling of journalism. Honored to have met her.
I first started watching Gwen when I, a black girl from the South, moved to DC for college in the 80's. I was impressed with her poise, intellect and gravitas. No fluff here, just real journalism. I've remained a fan for close to three decades, faithfully watching the newshour every evening. A few years ago, I crossed paths with her @ National Airport. I was too shy to bother her to ask for an autograph while she was busily checking in. But I did give her a huge warm smile, which she returned. You have touched the lives of so many, Gwen. Condolences to your family, friends, colleagues and fellow devoted fans.
I am so saddened by the death of Gwen Ifill. I feel like I've lost a best friend.
Even though I've grown up in Canada, PBS Newshour was always our first choice for news. For the past twenty years, I've learned about politics and the news through Mrs. Ifill. I've loved politics ever since I was a little girl, all because of the news.
She mentioned that she wanted little to girls to see female news anchors and think this was normal - this was completely true for me. Growing up, seeing another person of colour and female reporter on television was the norm. I remember thinking from a young age, "that could be me!"
From a young age, she was (and still is) a huge role for me, a young Chinese-Canadian girl. Mrs. Ifill showed me from a young age, that I can do whatever I put my mind to, that my voice is valued an important in politics, and that life should be lived with grace and empathy. I will think of her when I listen to Hamilton.
I am so sorry for your loss, and my thoughts are with you all during this difficult time.
NewsHour has a family feeling to it so don’t be surprised that your audience pays attention to the times you seem tired, ill, or exhausted. We notice and miss you when you’re gone and continue to tune in because you represent some of the best of journalism. Gwen was a part of that family. You are more than newscasters to us and we mourn with you our shared loss.
Gwen Ifil had more class, intelligence, influence and accomplishments than I'll ever have, but she never made me feel small around her. RIP
I'm a PBS viewer and NewsHour fan of many years. My evenings won't be the same. Many nights I'd watch the replay at 1 in the morning. Through many hard times in my life I was comforted by her presence and news delivery by her and her colleagues. I could count on her. I will miss her and I thank her for the comfort and care I drew from her, or she shared with me, which she had no idea she was doing for me. What a wonderful thing. I offer my condolences to her family, her colleagues, and to all of her fans who are saddened and heart broken like me. May God bless your sweet soul friend.
I have been a long-time fan of Gwen Ifill...it seems so surreal to know that her spirit has past on...I remember cheering her on when she (while wearing her square, blue framed glasses) pointed out that both Shields and Brooks were talking at length about Hillary's likability and had not addressed Trump's likability. My fist pumped in the air, and I thought, "Geez, you go Gwen! We need more people like her in this world to see an injustice and point it out." I love you Gwen Ifill.
Wolf Trap - can be a stodgy place - the audience sat through an Al Green concert! I was always apologizing when I got up during a show to dance. But one evening, at a Mavis Staples concert, there she was up front - singing, standing, dancing - she turned around to the audience with that great big smile - but her smile also said - what is wrong with you people? Get up and dance, it's Mavis! I was always a huge fan and can't imagine the shape of the news without her, but that night sealed it for me. Thanks Gwen - I've never apologized again for getting up and dancing!
I have lived and worked in China for the last 12 years. I loyally tuned in to PBS NewsHour daily (mid morning China) streaming via VPN and hooked up to a flat screen TV. Gwen's reporting was even handed, concise and enlightening. She and her colleagues, Judy Woodruff, Hari Sreenivasen, John Yang, were a steady and consistent no matter how unsettling the breaking news. When one is in China, the value of informed discussion is priceless. I shared PBS NewsHour with all my friends and colleagues in China, all of whom need to "jump the Great China Firewall" of censorship to watch news. Perhaps that is a legacy that will remain long after we have said goodbye to Gwen. Your reach and influence went far and wide.
I am at an age when losing friends and family members is not surprising. But rarely does the passing of another overwhelm me like losing Gwen Ifill. She is someone that I watched, heard, admired and connected with every evening on the PBS NewsHour. I felt like she was speaking to me and that she was part of my education as a citizen and as a human. How I hope her spirit survives among us.
I am 83. years old and I am sitting here with tears pouring down my cheeks. I was shocked to hear of Gwen's death today. I missed her and was wondering for a couple of weeks what had happened to her.This news is even more devastating.
I am from Barbados, sharing that heritage with her.and I am proud of having "known" Gwen Ifill, through her programs; Washington Week and the PBS News Hour. I missed her and wondered why she had been replaced. My sadness at this news is palpable. I first saw her many years ago on an episode of Washington,Week, and have not missed her since. I watch PBS every day; especially Charlie Rose, As Time Goes By, and everything after; every day, until I am ready for bed around ten-thirty. I always looked forward to seeing Gwen and Judy together.
Please let everyone who was connected with her, know that she has contributed greatly to the popularity of PBS, the cause of Black people, the strength of Black women, and the dignity of her profession.. Every Barbadian will no doubt be proud of this daughter of the soil; a professional, who like Shirley Chisholm, another Barbadian, have shown what can be achieved. My condolences to her family.
I remember I discovered Gwen Ifill just a few years ago and was immediately thrilled by her skills as a moderator and her knowledge. She was truly a class act and a model of great journalism. I am deeply saddened by her death. I am also terribly sad that I had not discovered her years before. But I know that you at PBS will continue the struggle to provide quality journalism at this time that it is so dearly needed.
We have watched the Newshour for many years and Gwen Ifill kept us company through countless national and international triumphs and crises. She was a part of our family routine. So we missed her when she was away for a month and were so happy when she returned. Now we can never again experience her professionalism, her humor, her poise, her competence, and her wonderful individualism. Our heartfelt condolences to her family.
Every morning for the past three years, I've woken up to the PBS NewsHour to Judy and Gwen and they're delightful coverage of news and events. I was delighted to see them do the last Democratic national debate with Hillary and Bernie, truly historic! Gwen was so graceful and classy and a true inspiration to woman everywhere! Thank you Gwen, love you, sending positive energy your way.
What a consummate professional and inspiring black woman. She seemed to effortlessly blend these two aspects of her life. If only we could all be so comfortable in our skin. Thank you, Gwen, for staying real.
You were and honoured guest in my home every day for many years. We will miss you dearly.
My heart is broken! The void, left by Gwen's departure, is filled with a great echo! The essence of her extraordinary life, integrity, dignity, wit, intellectual genius, commitment to the world and it's stories will remain as inspiration forever! With gratitude to you Gwen! I will hear your voice and feel the warmth of your presence always!
Mid-80s, in a Georgetown drugstore that still had a lunch counter, sat beside her with no clue who she was. We chatted. I asked about her job. She said journalist. And I returned the pleasantry by telling her I had just quit my first post-college job out of boredom and discomfort with what I was seeing of business ethics.
She saw that it worked me up a little, and replied with some kind words. Then, speaking in a simple, friendly and pragmatic way - no sage enlightenment, no deliberately conjured "soul" - she offered some practical advice. Something to the effect of, "Maybe you can try an approach that took me a while to figure out. When you go to an interview assume those imperfections are there, and try to figure out if you can do something that matters to you even if that never changes."
Offered as practical advice, not some sage wisdom. We talked a few minutes more, about food, and about Wisconsin Ave. traffic. We shook hands, exchanged first names, said we'd keep an eye out for each other, and we both were on our way. Never saw her in person again.
Her advice fit where I was at that time. And it helped when I incorporated it. And it stunned me when, a couple of weeks later, I saw her photo and byline beside an important White House story in the Post.
Sympathetic, smart, sweet, unselfconscious, and ready with simple advice that was what I needed, when I needed it.
Gwen Ifill, warm thanks, and Rest In Peace.