My musings on the mainstream media and culture.

A PBS NewsHour Fangirl Says Goodbye to Gwen Ifill


The degree to which we are PBS NewsHour fans is amusing. Also, kind of weird.

It’s not just that we’ve been watching NewsHour almost every night over dinner for the past decade, pressing the pause button every so often to discuss important points. It’s not just that we were celebratory when NewsHour Weekend began a few years ago, or that we get seriously excited when it’s time for Politics Monday or Shields & Brooks.

No, the true sign that I am a PBS NewsHour fangirl is that I have the NewsHour theme music as a ringtone on my phone. And, as a true fangirl, I need to clarify that my ringtone is of the old theme music. When they came out with the new music (which is really just a spiffed-up version of the old music), I literally felt sad. It just wasn’t the same.

There’s nothing on TV these days like the PBS NewsHour. In an era of so-called journalists screaming at each other and reporting about Twitter feeds on cable news, nothing comes close. NewsHour offers commercial-free, in-depth analysis that stands out in a medium dominated by sound bite coverage.  They report on all kinds of things that other outlets ignore, including an incredible amount of international news, and they offer thoughtful analysis by excellent commentators.

We love all the reporters on the NewsHour, and of course we refer to them by their first names, since we kind of feel like we know them by now. We love co-host Judy (Woodruff). We love weekend anchor Hari (Sreenivasan — aka the guy who is listed as my celebrity crush on my Yelp profile).

But hands down, co-anchor Gwen Ifill was our favorite. When our daughter was little, we used to point to the screen and say, “Look! Her name is Gwen too.” And our daughter would get excited and would say, “Good night, Gwen,” at the end of the broadcast. Because yes, we have our own Gwen. And no, she wasn’t named after Gwen Ifill. But I couldn’t think of a better honorary namesake for a young woman.

Because Gwen Ifill rocked. Her confidence radiated on the screen, as if it were no big deal to be part of the first all-woman co-anchor team in broadcast history, and as if it were no big deal to be a black woman in this role. Gwen was a middle-aged, larger black woman in a medium where none of those things are the least bit valued, and she owned it.

Like many of us, I’m sure that Gwen was excited about the possibility of the first female president. I wonder if at the end, she was holding on so that she could see that historic day. I’m so sorry you didn’t get to see this happen, Gwen. That makes the election results, and your death, all the more sad for me.

I learned that Gwen Ifill had died from a notification on my phone — the phone that plays the NewsHour theme music — and I burst into tears. Goodbye, Gwen. Thank you for making my household one of the most informed households on the block for this past decade. Our Gwen has literally grown up with you, and she will always remember you as an integral part of her childhood, eating dinner with her parents and learning about the world from a fabulous woman with the same name.  Thank you for being such a fabulous role model for our own Gwen. You will always be a legend in our family, and I will miss you with all my heart.

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