A pair of veteran journalists and Boston media alumni share a smile as Sarah-Ann Shaw (left), the first female African American reporter on WBZ-TV, and Gwen Ifill, PBS television host, news correspondent and author, pose for a photo during a Suffolk University event held March 5, 2009, at which Ifill received the Ford Hall Forum’s 2009 Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award, which is given annually to individuals and groups that promote the right to free expression. (Talia Whyte photo)
|Moderator Gwen Ifill (center) shakes hands with Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (left) as Palin’s Democratic counterpart, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, looks on following the vice presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008. (AP photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
|In this photograph provided by NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Betsy Fischer (left), the show’s executive producer, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (center) and Ifill appear during a June 15, 2008, “Meet the Press” taping in memory of late moderator Tim Russert at NBC’s Washington studios. Ifill moderates PBS’ “Washington Week,” is the senior correspondent for “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and has appeared on “Meet the Press” many times. (AP photo/“Meet the Press,” Alex Wong)
Veteran political journalist and Boston media alum Gwen Ifill was in town last Thursday to receive the 2009 Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award, presented by the Ford Hall Forum at Suffolk University. The award is given out each year to individuals and organizations that promote the right to free expression.
Ifill, who is the moderator and managing editor of the PBS program “Washington Week” and senior correspondent for “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” also participated in a conversation with the audience about her recent book, “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” which briefly made her a part of the story — as well as the center of a dispute about the extent of a journalist’s freedom of expression — during last year’s presidential campaign.
The questions started before last October’s vice presidential debate between then-Sen. Joe Biden and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. At the time Ifill was chosen to moderate the debate, she was writing her book, which prompted conservative pundits to question her objectivity. Arguing that the book’s subject matter indicated a pro-Obama bias, those conservatives called for her to step aside.
Months later, the charges haven’t totally disappeared. Even during last Thursday’s conversation, an audience member accused Ifill of being a liberal, a charge she dismissed.
“I am accused of being a liberal when, in fact, no one really knows what my politics are [because] I don’t express [them] when I do the news,” she said.
According to Ifill, “The Breakthrough” is not just a book about the 44th president; it’s also about the modern landscape of black political leadership. The book profiles well-known leaders like Gov. Deval Patrick and Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, whom Ifill refers to as “young Turks,” but also lesser-known politicians like LaMetta Wynn, the first black woman to become a mayor in Iowa.
“These people represent a different kind of breakthrough,” Ifill said. “Obama played a key role in the book, but his campaign flashed a light on other politicians.”
Ifill said that unlike the “old guard” black leaders such as Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, members of the new black leadership don’t focus on racism as the centerpiece of their platform.(p2)
Even before he succeeded in capturing the White House, Barack Obama
spawned a wave of stories heralding “a new generation” of black
politicians who successfully appeal to white voters. But Obama, Gov. Deval Patrick and other politicians so identified do
not belong to a new generation — a word that, on journalists’
keyboards, seems to have lost its age-related meaning. More »
Even before he succeeded in capturing the White House, Barack Obama spawned a wave of stories heralding “a new generation” of black politicians who successfully appeal to white voters. But Obama, Gov. Deval Patrick and other politicians so identified do not belong to a new generation — a word that, on journalists’ keyboards, seems to have lost its age-related meaning. More »
"Gwen Ifill, one of the nation’s most recognized journalists, has been chosen to moderate the 2008 Vice Presidential Debate by the national Commission on Presidential Debates," the Banner reported in its Sept. 4, 2008, "In the News" feature. More »
"The successes of the participants [at the Simmons College African American alumnae convention] indicate that their embrace of optimism has paid off for them," the Banner wrote in its April 21, 2005, editorial. "Gwen Ifill, formerly of Springfield, has risen to the top in television journalism. She is the moderator and managing editor of 'Washington Week,' the longest-running public affairs program on public television and is senior correspondent for 'The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.'" More »