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Gwendolyn L. Ifill ( , ) (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 Citymarker, the fifth child of African Methodist Episcopal minister, (Oliver) Urcille Ifill, Sr., a Panamanianmarker of Barbadianmarker descent who emigrated from Panama, and Eleanor Ifill, who was also from Barbados. Her father's ministry required the family to live in several cities throughout New Englandmarker and the Eastern Seaboard during her youth. In her childhood Ifill lived in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts church parsonages and in federally subsidized housing in Buffalomarker and New York Citymarker. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Simmons Collegemarker in Boston, Massachusettsmarker in 1977.


Ifill first interned for the Boston Herald where she was later hired as an apology by editors after a co-worker left a note for her that said "Nigger go home." Later she worked for the Baltimore Evening Sun (1981-1984), The Washington Post (1984-1991), The New York Times (1991-1994), and NBC. In October 1999, she became moderator of the PBS program Washington Week in Review. She is also senior correspondent for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Ifill has appeared on various news shows, including Meet the Press.

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'smarker Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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."

First book

Ifill's first book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was released January 20, 2009, Inauguration Day. 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 Jerseymarker 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.

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

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. 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.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.” 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." 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."



  1. Questions raised about moderator's impartiality, The Associated Press, October 1, 2008

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