South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV) was deeply saddened on Monday, November 14 to learn of the passing of Gwen Ifill, an American Peabody Award-winning journalist, author and acclaimed television anchor.
“Gwen Ifill was a gifted journalist and a trailblazer. We were fortunate that Gwen visited South Carolina on two different occasions in recent years.” Linda O’Bryon, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SCETV reflects. “In January 2012, she hosted Washington Week in our Columbia studios and spoke to an overflow group of her avid supporters. Then in September 2015, she hosted a remarkable town hall meeting, America After Charleston, from the Circular Church, just a few blocks from Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Her sensitive handling of a tragic moment in our state’s history was inspiring to us all. We will miss Gwen greatly.”
Ifill not only touched the SCETV family, but rather the state of South Carolina when she hosted the PBS NewsHour special, America After Charleston, a town hall program focusing on race relations in the nation after the 2015 Emanuel Tragedy.
“It was an incredible honor to work with Gwen Ifill on America After Charleston. What struck me most was her ability to feel the room.” Amy Shumaker, SCETV’s Executive Producer of National Television Programming, notes. “Regardless of the serious editorial calls we had leading up to the production, Gwen walked into the Circular Church and immediately saw that Charlestonians were still traumatized and hurt. Some folks were angry. She stuck to her journalistic roots but did not hesitate to give a hug or words of comfort to those who needed it.”
Ifill proved a dedicated, but perhaps most importantly, compassionate moderator of the event. The state of South Carolina was very much left reeling after the events of June 2015, and it was important that the program address the healing process, as well as how to move forward as a nation.
Among SCETV crew members, memories of Gwen Ifill echo a similar sentiment: she was a woman marked by professionalism but also, kindness.
"Ms. Ifill was one of a kind. Her warm smile, her kind heart were traits you could relate to immediately when she walked into a room, but we will never forget her professionalism and her journalistic ability." Cheryl Nunnley, SCETV's Program Manager and a sorority sister of Ifill says. "She will forever leave a mark in Public Television. Thank you Ms. Ifill for gracing us with your presence."
“Not only were you in awe of her when she was around because of her career, but also of who she was as a person.” Aimee Crouch, producer of SCETV’s public affairs program Palmetto Scene, remembers. “She was brilliant; easy-going, warm and funny. You could listen to her tell stories for hours, but I’ll always remember that she was interested in hearing the stories other crew members and I told her. She was just one of us.”
Xavier Blake, a senior EFP specialist as SCETV, also remembers a woman who was happy to interact with everyone working around her.
“She was always professional, gracious and a joy to work with.” Blake says. “One thing stands out. I was joking with her during the taping of the Charleston special about a tweet I'd sent out that she had favorited. I said ‘Hey, I can't get a retweet!’ She went back, found it and walked back by to say she had done so. She treated all the crew like they were important. She will be missed.”
Ifill began her career in communications as an intern and then employee for the Boston Herald-American. She would go on to work for the Baltimore Evening Sun, the Washington Post, the New York Times and NBC.
Ifill then began her career in public television. Ifill was the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week on PBS and co-anchor and co-managing editor of PBS NewsHour. Her work in reporting on the American political system would lead to her appearances on programs such as Meet the Press, and inform her authorship of the book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.
Ifill was the moderator of the 2004 and 2008 vice-presidential debates, and she and PBS NewsHour co-anchor and co-managing editor Judy Woodruff would become the first woman team to moderate a Democratic presidential debate.
Ifill passed away on Monday, Nov. 14, of endometrial cancer, among family and friends. She leaves behind a legacy of journalistic integrity and accomplishment that is rarely accomplished, but one that is only bolstered by the magnitude of her achievements as an American woman of color.
"NPR quoted Gwen’s approach was to 'bring light rather than heat’ as a journalist. Her legacy of light will shine brightly for generations to come.” Linda O’Bryon praised.
SCETV will air An Evening with Gwen Ifill on Friday, Nov. 18th, at 7 p.m. An Evening With Gwen Ifill is a one-on-one interview of Gwen Ifill, considered one of the most prolific journalists of her time. Taped in the historic Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress' Thomas Jefferson Building, and hosted by Gwen's friend and fellow journalist Michele Norris, An Evening With Gwen Ifill turns the tables on the long-time host, giving an insider's perspective into Gwen's childhood and development as a print and television correspondent.