Remembering Gwen: Letters by Gwen Ifill fellows

When Gwen Ifill was named the co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour in 2013, she said she hoped little girls would watch her and think it “perfectly normal” to occupy an anchor’s desk someday. Her death in 2016 was a shock in so many ways, but the loss was felt acutely by PBS’ Student Reporting Labs network, which was graced by her mentorship and inspiration as a role model for so many girls in the program.

Student Reporting Labs (SRL) began in 2009 to help middle and high school students produce news stories that related to their own lives and the experiences of their peers. Gwen served as a mentor and cheerleader to so many of these young aspiring journalists. Following Gwen’s death, it was clear that the best way to honor her legacy was to nurture it and inspire many future generations of journalists.

The Gwen Ifill Fellowship supports high school journalists to intern at local PBS stations. SRL partners with local media to provide journalism training and amplify student stories within the community and beyond.

The first Fellowship was awarded to Sophie Sabin, who was inspired by Gwen and reached out to her in 2014, which ended in Gwen speaking at Sophie’s Middle School graduation that year. Sophie spent the summer of 2017 at New Jersey Public Television, producing stories about the state government shutdown and the impact of the 1960s Newark Riots.

Since then, seven young women have interned at their local PBS Stations in Houston, Los Angeles, Austin, Cincinnati, Hawaii, and Virginia. To mark this year’s anniversary, SRL asked past fellows to write a posthumous letter to Gwen about their experiences and how her legacy has shaped their goals and hopes for the future. As these letters attest, Gwen Ifill paved the way for girls to see themselves at the anchor’s desk, behind the camera, in the edit suite, and in the director’s chair.

Please read the letters here and watch the Fellows read some of their letters on the NewsHour broadcast here.