To Gwen Ifill. From Viewers Like Us: ‘Eternal Thanks’

Last Updated by Michael Getler on

The tragic passing of Gwen Ifill, the venerable co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour and the host of Washington Week, on Monday at a way-too-young 61 has produced a flood of tears, warmth, love and respect for her among hundreds of PBS viewers who wrote to the ombudsman’s office in the past 24 hours.

During periods this past year when she was noticeably off the air for extended periods, hundreds more wrote to us asking about her, hoping she was well and that she would return soon. We passed those messages on to the NewsHour. There was not much to say in response through those months out of respect for Ifill’s privacy and because she was always a fighter against whatever it was that was causing her absence.

Now, things are tragically clear. But what is also clear, as the letters below reflect, is that the public understands it has lost a real public servant—a wonderful woman and respected journalist, dedicated to bringing news to the public in a fair and accurate fashion but with a face, smile, personality and wit that could make you absorb it better.

Here Are Some of the Letters

Eternal thanks, Gwen Ifill. You set the standard and taught us so much; your steadiness guided the way each and every day we were in your world. Bravo to Judy Woodruff and the rest of the NewsHour and Washington Week teams for carrying on so bravely and tirelessly while your hearts were breaking . . . Rest In Peace, beloved Gwen Ifill.

Williams, OR

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I am heartbroken to hear that Gwen Ifill has died. She has been like a part of my family for many, many years....every night. I send my condolences to her family and her colleagues. Our country has lost a giant in the world of journalism. Thank you.

Sara Just, Princeton, NJ

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I am incredibly sad with the passing of Gwen Ifill! Watched her almost nightly for years. Tears filled my eyes immediately! She certainly was a journalist of the highest order as are all of the journalists I have watched on PBS... I feel that PBS strives always for fair and balanced reporting. Much appreciated. Thanks to you ALL!!!!

Apopka, FL

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My husband, Duncan, and I have admired, enjoyed and been impressed by Gwen for years. Her absence during the NewsHour election night coverage was as much a loss and confusion as the final outcome. To you, Gwen's colleagues, friends and family, we, a couple in the wilds of rural Oregon, offer our own deep sense of loss and tremendous, lasting gratitude for everything we gained by Gwen's willingness to share her professionalism, worldview and humor.

Ceola Chevalier, Bonanza, OR

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Just learned of the passing of Gwen Ifill, and am incredibly sad. She was so smart, so professional, and full of grace. Fly with the angels, Gwen.

Sandra Zenker, Kanab, UT

'Knowledge and Grace'

Please convey our deepest sympathy to the family of Gwen Ifill, as well as to the PBS family. Her professionalism, her humor, her persona will be greatly missed, as will her knowledge and grace. A truly wonderful woman has been taken when we need people like her.

Kathryn Ackers, Phoenix, AZ

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I remember watching with my dad McNeil and Lehrer report and as years have passed Gwen Ifill came to PBS NewsHour. I was thrilled to see PBS continue with brilliance as none other than Gwen. How is it possible that such a great light of intelligence is gone and the ugly profound racist campaign of darkness is still with us. Our deepest sympathies to Gwen’s family, PBS NewsHour and all in America who relied on her intelligent wit and pure love of the truth.

Paul Del and Family, Gunnison, CO

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Our home is sadder today for the loss of Gwen Ifill. She was our Cronkite, and more. We were raised up by her integrity and grit. She asked the hard questions we wanted asked – and did so without the sanctimony or mean-spiritedness that dominates news reporting today. She was fair and fierce; we're so very grateful for that. Her sudden leave earlier this season, her battle with cancer, and now her loss, must have and will weigh heavily on you and your colleagues at PBS. Our thoughts and hearts are with you and Gwen's family. May her memory be for a blessing.

Richard Benari/Lauren Henkin, Rockland, ME

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Stunned to hear of Gwen's death. No one can replace her. Her integrity and honesty made me watch the NewsHour. Now what?

Sherrill Futrell, Davis, CA

'Loss to Our Country'

I was shocked to hear of the passing of Gwen Ifill. From paper to television, she brought the intelligence, dedication, focus, and concerns, which make journalism still a viable source of information for all citizens. On the TV, her added charm. A rare individual and a severe loss to our country. My thoughts are with her family and her community. I may add, a gutsy lady who fought to the very end. From a family of journalists,

Nicholas Freidin, Huntington, WV

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I was deeply affected by the passing of "our" Gwen Ifill. I had suspected that aught was amiss with this splendid journalist, but it was a great blow to realize she has passed from our screens forever. May she inspire others and may her soul rest in peace!

George Winius, Gainesville, FL

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Just adding more tears to the news that we have lost Gwen Ifill, a national and personal treasure.

Sharon Pelphrey, San Antonio, TX

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I have no other way than to contact you to express my sorrow on reading that Gwen Ifill has died. Please convey my thoughts and prayers to Gwen's family and my condolences to the News Hour team, especially Judy Woodruff, on the loss of their colleague and friend.

Rita Hessley, Cincinnati, OH

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We have always felt that Gwen, Judy and their staff members were right at 'home' when they joined us daily. As is possible, extend our thoughts, positive memories and condolences to Gwen's family and we pray for the NewHour team as they maintain their professional work as a salute to Gwen's life!

Big Bend, WI

Bad Week, Bad Blow

Thank you so much for allowing us to share in your grief and memories of Gwen Ifill. She was someone who was welcomed into our den every week night, with the announcement, "It's time for Judy and Gwen!!" No one needed to ever ask who we meant. In a week that came with so many disappointments, her passing was a blow to our hearts. She was the best friend we never met. Thank you for honoring her last night and letting us share. Sadly,

The Wheelers, Ariel, WA

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Please accept my sincere condolences for our loss of Gwen Ifill. As Judy Woodruff stated at the beginning of tonight's NewsHour, she was indeed a "super nova" amongst many of today's journalists. She will truly be missed by so many.

Kenn LaBarre, Casa Grande, AZ

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Would like to express my great sorrow at Gwen Ifill's death. One of the best anchors/interviewers/commentators in the TV industry. Hers will be a very hard seat to fill. Goodbye, Gwen, and thanks.

David Strickland, Ft Lauderdale, FL

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My condolences to PBS for the loss of Gwen Ifill. I am very saddened. She struck me as a very good person.

Steve Ford Steve, Natick, MA

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Stunned to hear of Gwen Ifill's death. Thank you for the beautiful tribute to her. Though I cried all the way through, let me say that in additional to her many professional accomplishments, she always got the color of her lipstick right too. Please accept my condolences.

Austin, TX

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Thank you, thank you for such sensitive and dignified coverage of Gwen Ifill's death. She deserved every minute of it.

Bonnie McAfee, Granite Bay, CA

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I want to thank the NewsHour for this evening's wonderful tribute to Gwen Ifill. I have always admired Gwen's amazing ability to report the news of the day and her ability to connect with her audience. She was a talented and remarkable journalist. She will be missed.

Jerrilee DaSaro, Anderson Island, WA

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Beautiful tribute to Gwen on the NewsHour today.

Ernest Smith, Dallas, TX

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Thank you for the warm and genuine tribute to Gwen Ifill.

Steve Buccieri, Andover, MA

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My condolences to Judy Woodruff and the rest of the PBS staff on Gwen Ifill's passing. I so appreciated this evening’s show and tribute.

Joan Gleckel, Rehoboth Beach, DE

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I wanted to add my voice to the expressions of gratitude for Gwen Ifill. Gwen always conducted herself in an exemplary manner. She was a warm, lovely, competent, caring presence who I welcomed into my home almost every night. I trusted her. I wept watching the PBS News Hour tribute last evening. I will miss her even, fair, insightful, and tempered reporting. May her void be filled by her great legacy and call to each of us to be better.

Jacqueline Murray, Santa Clara, UT

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I don't know if this is the correct space, but wanted to thank PBS for its salute to Gwen Ifill. It's important!! Thank you.

Lovisa Brown, Oakland, CA

'Didn't Expect to Sob'

I worked as a patient ombudsman for 20 years so I wonder if the majority of the comments you may receive are adversarial. But tonight, I write in a completely opposite tone.

I have been sitting here sobbing at the news of Gwen Ifill's death. Yes, I was moved and sad but I didn't expect to sob. You see, Gwen Ifill was one of my heroes. I always wished she was my friend. I so admired her authenticity which I try to emulate. I am white, a product of privileged Virginia whose ancestors were slave owners. I thought if I could just sit down with Gwen she would be intellectually curious and ask me smart questions. She would open her heart and would be nonjudgmental. She would encourage me to think which would lead me to intelligence and introspection. I had stories I wanted to share with her.

Of course I knew I'd never really know Gwen but her style and skill encouraged me. She made me smile and filled me with such pride. I was so happy for her! For her accomplishments!

There are no words to express how much I will miss the joy in her voice. To the PBS family, and especially Judy, Hari and all at the NewsHour, please accept my sincere condolences. I am thinking of you.

Sally Cary Booker, Charlottesville, VA

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My sincere condolences to the family, friends and coworkers of Ms. Gwen Ifill. As one of your regular viewers and contributors (yes, you do have some conservatives such as myself) I appreciated her as an anchor and as a debate moderator. She will be greatly missed. My thanks to your entire organization for providing competent, thoughtful and civilized news on a nightly basis. I am glad that in an age of 24 hour news "zoos" that exist, there is one that I watch for actual intellectual discourse. We say thanks again and pray for her family today.

Sean F. Bradley, Chicago, IL

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We have cried all day and will for some time knowing that the best reporter of our time has left us. I am especially moved, as a barely cancer survivor with a terminally diagnosis that made me know what one go through when faced with such a relentless disease. We wish all of her colleagues and her family to know how much we pray for your peace knowing that she is in all of our are hearts and in her place of destiny, heaven above!

Patty and David, Pacific Grove, CA

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So sorry to hear of the passing of Gwen Ifill. She seemed to be a wonderful woman.
I always found Gwen Ifill to be an excellent, unbiased reporter and that is why I sometimes watched the PBS Newshour.

Peoria, AZ

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I am saddened to have just learned that Gwen Ifill has died after being seriously ill for some time. I missed her for a while on the News Hour and Washington Week. I hope there will be a memorial fund in her memory to which I can contribute. She was a great role model for me as an American man, American women, and all minority Americans. We were all made better by her quality journalistic service. I regret not saying this to her while she was alive.

Jimmy W. Hosch, Dallas, TX

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I don't know who to address this question to or how to get it in front of the right person for review. Would it be possible for PBS or perhaps colleagues of Gwen Ifill's to establish a scholarship in her name at some journalism school of good repute, such as the Columbia's graduate school? At this particular time, we need all of the thoughtful, well-trained, objective journalist's that we can find and educate. Would love to help carry on Gwen Ifill's powerful brand of journalism in her name. I for one would certainly donate and I think that many others across the US would as well. It would be a wonderful legacy. Thank you for directing this query to wherever it should actually be directed to have some effect.

Sharon Murphy, Orinda, CA

Donations in Her Memory

Several viewers have asked about donations. Gwen’s family has asked that donations in her memory be made to The Gwen Ifill Fund for Journalism Excellence through WETA.

To make a gift in memory of Gwen, you may:

  • Contact WETA at 703-998-1834
  • Visit the site here
  • Send a gift to WETA, In Memoriam, 3939 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, Virginia 22206

Posted on Nov. 15, 2016 at 3:09 p.m.

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As ombudsman, Michael Getler serves as an independent internal critic within PBS. He reviews commentary and criticism from viewers and seeks to ensure that PBS upholds its own standards of editorial integrity. Read More >
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