I’m the same age as Gwen Ifill – the woman who made TV history with Judy Woodruff on “The PBS NewsHour” as the first female co-anchors of a network news broadcast and who died of endometrial cancer Monday in Washington D.C. – so I’m old enough to remember earlier iterations, “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report” and “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” Both were anchored by two white men. And though Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer were fine journalists in the Walter Cronkite tradition, theirs were the faces I had seen since childhood.
People will tell you that affirmative action is needless and that you should only look for role models within your immediate circle, but I have to tell you that seeing two women of my vintage, including one of color, on my TV each evening, doing excellent journalism, was a comfort and a source of pride to me, a fellow journalist. I felt I could be enlightened by them without their well-groomed presences taking pride of place. It was their well-groomed minds that inspired.
And I relished Ifill as host of “Washington Week in Review.” Her joy in politics – with all its scandals and heartbreak – was palpable. You always had the sense that she could, would sort it out.
It may be my overactive imagination, but I liked to watch the “NewsHour” to the credits to see Ifill and Woodruff shuffle their papers into place and chat a bit. I imagined them picking up their purses, shutting their office doors and going out into a cherry blossom-filled night.
Now it’s fall, and the world seems a smaller place for women these days.
With Ifill’s passing, it has become a smaller place still.