NEW YORK CITY — Queens-born longtime PBS anchor Gwen Ifill has died after a battle with cancer, the network confirmed to Politico Monday afternoon. She was 61.
The co-host of PBS's "NewsHour" and "Washington Week" moderator began her reporting career in the late 1970s, at a time when black journalists, and particularly black female reporters, were underrepresented in newsrooms across the nation. Before moving to television, she held various print reporting positions at outlets like the Washington Post and the New York Times.
Ifill had been absent from PBS's election coverage last week due to health concerns. She had previously taken a medical leave of absence from the station in May.
"Gwen was one of America’s leading lights in journalism and a fundamental reason public media is considered a trusted window on the world by audiences across the nation," PBS President and C.E.O. Paula Kerger said in a statement Monday.
"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 a steadfast commitment to excellence."
The New York City native credited her interest in journalism and politics to her parents, who insisted their children watch the national news on the household television every evening. The family lived in cities throughout New England during Ifill's childhood, following her father's pastoral assignments. While posted in New York, the Rev. O. Urcille Ifill Sr. led the congregation at the Trinity A.M.E. Church in Jamaica, Queens.
Ifill was scheduled to receive the 2016 John Chancellor Award for her courage, integrity and professional accomplishments at a dinner and ceremony at Columbia University's Low Library this Wednesday. She was the first African-American reporter to be named a recipient of the 21-year-old annual accolade.
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