Gwen Ifill

Journalist


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In her hour-long Archive interview, Gwen Ifill (1955-2016) discusses her early love of writing and reading and how that carried her into a career in journalism. She knew at the age of nine-years-old that she wanted to be a journalist and later majored in Communications at Simmons College to help make her dream a reality. She describes working in print journalism for many years, covering politics for The Baltimore Evening Sun, Presidential Elections for The Washington Post and Clinton's election and the White House for The New York Times. She recalls her first appearance on television and shares how mentor Tim Russert convinced her to get into television full-time. Ifill details stories she covered at NBC News, and outlines her transition from NBC to PBS. She speaks of becoming the first female, African-American moderator of Washington Week and talks of her work on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (aka PBS NewsHour). She discusses her experiences moderating Edwards/Cheney and Palin/Biden Vice-Presidential debates and expresses her thoughts on the Saturday Night Live sketch with Queen Latifah that parodies the Palin/Biden debate. Ifill offers tips on how to be a good moderator and gives her views on the future of television news. Karen Herman conducted the interview on October 20, 2011 in Washington, D.C.

"I really want to keep my mind open to all possibilities. If I make up my mind in advance what I believe about something ... I stop listening. We all stop listening once you've made up your mind … I want to be curious. I want to maintain my curiosity about what the answers to the question might be. And I want to hold out for the possibility that someone will surprise me." 

Highlights
Gwen Ifill on moderating Washington Week and changes she brought to the program
02:57
Gwen Ifill on topics she covered on NBC News and Meet the Press
01:36
Gwen Ifill on moderating a Palin/Biden Vice-presidential debate
02:14
Gwen Ifill on how she keeps her personal views out of her reporting
01:21
Gwen Ifill on tips for being a good moderator
01:12
Gwen Ifill on Queen Latifah playing her in a Saturday Night Live sketch
01:08
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her early years and influences; on being a serious-minded child and loving to read and write; on watching the news with her father; on knowing she wanted to be a journalist at age nine; on majoring in Communications in college
08:41
On her work in print journalism - covering food, Boston school systems, and writing about politics at the Baltimore Evening Sun; on working at The Washington Post and covering Presidential elections; on covering Clinton's election and the White House for The New York Times
05:58
On her first television appearance; on Tim Russert talking her into going into television full time; on topics she covered on NBC News and Meet the Press; on certain stories being better for print than for television, and vice versa; on writing a blog
08:30
On how stories were assigned at NBC; on transitioning to PBS; on moderating Washington Week and changes she brought to the program; on her weekly preparations for Washington Week; on tips for being a good moderator
08:13
On moderating two Vice-presidential debates - Edwards/Cheney and Palin/Biden; on her 2009 book The Breakthrough, Politics And Race In The Age Of Obama and how it complicated her moderating the Palin/Biden Vice-Presidental debate; on the power of U.S. Presidential debates
10:19
On starting on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer aka PBS NewsHour; on finances at PBS; on Jim Lehrer stepping down from NewsHour; on the show's online presence; on covering 9/11
On Queen Latifah playing her in a Saturday Night Live sketch; on the future of television news; on advice to aspiring journalists; on her proudest career achievement
Shows

Huntley-Brinkley Report, The

View Show Page
Gwen Ifill on watching The Huntley-Brinkley report as a child with her father
00:48

Meet the Press

View Show Page
Gwen Ifill on Tim Russert talking her into going into television full time
02:58
Gwen Ifill on topics she covered on NBC News and Meet the Press
01:36

NewsHour with Jim Lehrer aka PBS NewsHour

View Show Page
Gwen Ifill on starting on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer aka PBS NewsHour; on finances at PBS
03:29
Gwen Ifill on Jim Lehrer stepping back from NewsHour; on the show's online presence
04:01

Saturday Night Live

View Show Page
Gwen Ifill on Queen Latifah playing her in a Saturday Night Live sketch
01:08

Washington Week

View Show Page
Gwen Ifill on moderating Washington Week and changes she brought to the program
02:57
Gwen Ifill on her weekly preparations for Washington Week
03:55
Gwen Ifill on covering 9/11
03:00
Topics

9/11

View Topic
Gwen Ifill on covering 9/11
03:55

Barack Obama

View Topic
Gwen Ifill on her 2009 book The Breakthrough, Politics And Race In The Age Of Obama
03:08

Bill Clinton

View Topic
Gwen Ifill on covering Clinton's election and the White House for The New York Times
00:53

Minorities

View Topic
Gwen Ifill on knowing she wanted to be a journalist at age nine and seeing a role model who was African-American
01:21
Gwen Ifill on being the first female and first African-American to moderate Washington Week
01:38

Technological Innovation

View Topic
Gwen Ifill on PBS NewsHour's online presence
02:51

Women

View Topic
Gwen Ifill on learning to be an assertive woman in college and how it applies to her career
00:35
Gwen Ifill on being the first female and first African-American to moderate Washington Week
01:38
Gwen Ifill on moderating a Palin/Biden Vice-presidential debate
02:14
Professions

Journalists & News Producers

View Profession
Gwen Ifill on knowing she wanted to be a journalist at age nine
01:21
Gwen Ifill on Tim Russert talking her into going on television full time
02:58
Gwen Ifill on starting on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer aka PBS NewsHour and starting to anchor
01:33
Genres

News and Documentary

View Genre
Gwen Ifill on topics she covered on NBC News and Meet the Press
01:36
Gwen Ifill on moderating Washington Week, changes she brought to the program, and preparations for the weekly broadcast
06:52
Gwen Ifill on starting on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer aka PBS NewsHour; on finances at PBS
01:33
Gwen Ifill on moderating a Palin/Biden Vice-presidential debate
02:14
People

Bill Clinton

View Person Page
Gwen Ifill on covering Clinton's election and the White House for The New York Times
00:53
Gwen Ifill on covering Clinton's impeachment trials for NBC News
02:27

Bryant Gumbel

View Person Page
Gwen Ifill on the show Flashpoint with Bryant Gumbel
00:58

Martin Luther King, Jr.

View Person Page
Gwen Ifill on her proudest career achievement
01:01

Jim Lehrer

View Interview Page
Gwen Ifill on starting on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer aka PBS NewsHour
01:33
Gwen Ifill on Jim Lehrer stepping back from NewsHour
01:10

Sarah Palin

View Person Page
Gwen Ifill on moderating a Palin/Biden Vice-presidential debate
02:14
Gwen Ifill on Queen Latifah playing her in a Saturday Night Live sketch
01:08

Tim Russert

View Interview Page
Gwen Ifill on Tim Russert talking her into going on television full time
02:58
Gwen Ifill on tips for being a good moderator and what she learned from mentor Tim Russert
01:12

All Interviews

Q
S