Announcing the 2024 Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellows at local PBS stations

May 24, 2024

ARLINGTON, VA. — PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) is thrilled to announce the three young journalists of color who are the 2024 Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellows. They will report stories in their communities with the support of their local PBS stations: Morgan Hawkins at
WETA in Arlington, Virginia, Maria Witcher at Detroit Public Television in Detroit, Michigan and Aidan Booker at Ideastream Public Media in Cleveland, Ohio. 

The Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellowship honors award-winning anchor, reporter, and author Gwen Ifill, the former PBS NewsHour co-anchor and managing editor, who died in November 2016 after complications from endometrial cancer. Ifill became one of the nation’s most respected political journalists: the first African-American woman to moderate a vice-presidential debate and the first to host a major weekly political affairs program. After Ifill was named the co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour, she said she hoped little girls would watch her and think it “perfectly normal” to occupy an anchor’s desk someday.

Meet the 2024 Gwen Ifill Fellows

Morgan Hawkins | WETA/PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs

Morgan Hawkins is a rising senior at the DC International School in Washington D.C. During her time working with SRL she has produced several stories focusing on her community. Hawkins also attended SRL’s 2023 Summer Academy in Boston.

Student Reporting Labs is excited to welcome her to the team. “I had the pleasure of working closely with Morgan during our Summer Academy last year,” says SRL editorial director Marie Cusick. “She is an incredibly talented video editor and thoughtful storyteller.”

Hawkins says she applied to become a Gwen Ifill Fellow to help build her storytelling skills and relationships with industry professionals who can share their experiences and skills. She is excited to work with WETA/the Student Reporting Labs team over the summer to strengthen her journalism skills,

gain experience in the field, and work with professionals.  Hawkins wants to continue producing stories that focus on the DC community. In her words, “Stories that I am looking to produce during the fellowship are those that bring awareness to DC culture and community acknowledgment.”


Maria Witcher | Detroit Public Television

Maria Witcher is a graduating senior at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan, and hopes to attend the University of Michigan. She first connected with SRL when she attended SRL’s 2023 Summer Academy in Boston, and this summer she will also be contributing to a special election edition of the On Our Minds podcast.

Witcher is passionate about journalism and story-telling and its impact on her community. She says she can’t wait to use her skills to contribute to her community and tell engaging stories. “What excites me most about working with my local PBS station is the chance to contribute to meaningful, community-focused journalism.”

For Elisha Anderson,  Managing Editor of Journalism at Detroit PBS, this fellowship is an opportunity for the team to continue working with young people, she said. “Detroit PBS is excited to partner with Student Reporting Labs and work with the next generation of journalists. We look forward to welcoming Maria to our team this summer and helping her build reporting skills as she tells stories about our diverse communities.”

During her fellowship, she wants to focus on the viewpoints of minority communities in Detroit during the upcoming presidential election, specifically exploring how Black women and other minority voters engage with the electoral process, the issues driving their participation, and how their voices contribute to shaping the election narrative.

“This topic is important to me because it sheds light on critical issues facing minority youth and their futures, including representation, racial justice, and the impact of political decisions on marginalized communities,” said Witcher. “Elevating these voices is crucial for a more inclusive democracy and equitable society.”


Aidan Booker | Ideastream Public Media

Aidan Booker is a graduating senior at Twinsburg High School in Twinsburg, Ohio, was part of the inaugural SRL Student Advisory Team, and was a 2023 SRL SummerAcademy Fellow.

This summer, Booker will be at Ideastream Public Media, and he says, “I know that by working with them I’ll be able to impact the people in the community from the ground up, rather than making stories from a distance.”

Mike McIntyre, Executive Editor of Ideastream Public Media,  likewise seeks to create opportunities for young people to build the skills to share their perspectives. “Ideastream Public Media has a robust internship program helping to develop the next generation of college and high school students into journalists and storytellers.  Aidan’s participation through the Gwen Ifill Fellowship gives us a new opportunity to serve the public and help shape young talent.”

“Aidan has the curiosity and enthusiasm that’s essential to good storytelling. Our role will be to help guide him as he produces a video piece that he, and we, can be proud of,” he said. “Our being associated with NewsHour and involved in any way with the legacy of Gwen Ifill is a true privilege.”

Booker seeks to report a human interest story connected to Cleveland’s local summer events like filming the new Superman: Legacy movie, preparation for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, or Cleveland’s first hosting of the WWE SummerSlam.

Booker is excited to embark on this summer and follow in the footsteps of the trailblazing Gwen Ifill, as he is always looking for new ways to express his voice and uplift other voices in his community.

He says, “This fellowship was the perfect opportunity not only to showcase my passion for storytelling but also to embody those great values that Gwen Ifill shared.”