Gwen Ifill serves as keynote for Schuneman Symposium
On February 25, Gwen Ifill was introduced to a packed Baker Ballroom as “one of the classiest journalists around” by Visiting Professor Andy Alexander. Ifill is the moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week” and senior correspondent for the “PBS NewsHour.” Her credentials and her presentation about why journalism is not dead lived up to this introduction and were a great way to commence the fifth annual Schuneman Symposium.
“I am deeply grateful to get to be a journalist [in America],” said Ifill. “I live in a country where the first amendment provides a cloak, but also a responsibility.”
Ifill shared with the attendees some key points about what this responsibility entails. She stressed that journalists are the “go-betweens.” Their job is to pay attention when the public and politicians are not, to provide information and then to allow people to make their own conclusions. A journalist’s job is to listen, even if the answer to the question is unexpected or not what they agree with on a personal level.
“It’s important to listen, especially if you disagree,” Ifill said. “When the questions get harder to answer and the answers get harder to take, we have to keep asking.”
Despite everything she sees in her work as an esteemed journalist, Ifill says she remains “skeptical not cynical, hopeful not despairing.” She refuted the death of journalism by saying, “Journalism is alive when we put events in context, when we explain the how and why.”
In addition to her current work with PBS, she has covered six presidential campaigns and moderated two vice presidential debates. Ifill is also the best-selling author of “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama” (Doubleday, 2009).
Before coming to PBS in 1999, she was the chief congressional and political correspondent for NBC News, White House correspondent for The New York Times and a local and national political reporter for The Washington Post. Ifill’s work as a journalist has been honored by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center, Ebony Magazine and Boston’s Ford Hall Forum. She holds more than 20 honorary doctorates, is a fellow with the American Academy of Sciences and serves on the boards of News Literacy Project and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Dr. Stewart, director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, also awarded Ifill with the Carr Van Anda award to add to her list of achievements. This award recognizes outstanding work by journalists throughout their careers.
“I imagine I’m doing my small part of saving journalism for the next generation,” said Ifill. “I am very conscious of the image that I set for young journalists.”