PBS anchor Gwen Ifill shares stories from journalism career


Washington politics and the role of media in regards to improving gridlock were topics of concern Wednesday when a PBS anchor with an extensive career answered questions from the audience about the controversial topics.

“A Conversation with Gwen Ifill” was co-moderated by Associate Editor and Senior Columnist at Fort Worth Star-Telegram Bob Ray Sanders and TCU 360 Executive Editor Lexy Cruz. 

The Brown-Lupton University Union auditorium was filled with Schieffer School of Journalism students and staff, and KERA friends and family. The stage was open for Q&A for the majority of the hour.

Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of "Washington Week" and senior correspondent for the "PBS NewsHour,” has covered at least half a dozen presidential campaigns and moderated two vice presidential debates. She is also the best-selling author of "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."

One particular student, Bethany Peterson, a junior journalism major, attended to learn more about the news industry..

Ifill shared her story of becoming an American journalist, television newscaster and an author.

She was given her first job after a co-worker left her a racial slur at her intern desk. She explained that she was harmed by this action of the individual, but not as much as her bosses were. After the incident, they offered her a job at The Boston-Herald American.

“I learned my lesson, take the job that is offered to you," Ifill said. "No matter how you get in door, just get in there.” 

She said she experienced difficult times in her career, but she still had to step up and do the job.

“I think diversity is really important. But not just in one way, diversity in skin color, but also diversity in thought or opinion. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but it brings something different to the conversation,” She said.

She said she always wanted to be a newspaper reporter. When she was working for the New York Times, her friend and mentor, the late Tim Russert, dared her to work in television full-time.

Russert was an American television journalist and lawyer who appeared for more than 16 years as the longest-serving moderator of NBC's Meet the Press.

Ifill thought television would be able to serve all of her purposes, but she also witnessed people who transitioned from print to television fail in the industry miserably.

She was with NBC for five years before moving to PBS in 1999, and is currently senior correspondent for the "PBS NewsHour”

When Ifill’s best-selling novel, “Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama” was released four years ago, there were many criticisms of bias when she later moderated the debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.

The audience laughed when she explained if people actually read the book, they would know she wasn’t biased because there wasn’t even a chapter about President Barack Obama. But she said the criticism didn't affect the way she did her work.

“I think that whenever you have a first in this life, there is always going to be detractors,” she said, I had a couple things on my mind other than the detractors. The key to the work was to do the work, if I put my head down and did my job the best way I knew how, then all the criticism will fall away because in the end, it's not about you. It's about the people on stage running for president.”