When you meet someone for the first time, it can be like seeing one episode of a long running television series. You don’t know the backstory, or the character arcs, but if you’re wise, you expect that there is a lot about this person that you don’t know, based on that first encounter.
I never met Gwen Ifill but I saw her almost every day on the PBS News Hour. The encounters were as real and in-person as the time I met Adam Reilly at Whole Foods. I never imagined that her life had been so amazing, meeting presidential candidates, moderating debates, and playing a pivotal part in the history of African-Americans in journalism.
When I saw the announcement of her passing, it was a shock. Maybe it wasn’t as big of a shock as it was for those who worked with her. The touching tribute delivered by her colleagues and those she had interviewed, (including President Obama) reminded me that we all have a long and reaching story. Some stories go on long after we have passed on.
I hope young journalists of all backgrounds will look to Gwen’s story and draw inspiration, especially in this day and age when we must be more circumspect in the information we receive from the media. Her life and career should be the measuring stick by which we judge our journalists, our politicians, and naturally, ourselves.