Judy Woodruff: ‘Gwen is Looking Down on Us Now Urging Us Not to be Deterred’

By Chris Ariens 

The medal honoring the late Gwen Ifill with the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism is dated November 16, 2016.

That was the day Ifill was to be presented the award by Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. Instead, the event was held today, in the sunlit rotunda of the 122-year-old Low Memorial Library. Ifill died November 14 following a battle with cancer.

“My heart has not healed,” said Judy Woodruff in her remarks about her former PBS NewsHour co-anchor. “We didn’t look like other anchor pairs and we loved that.”

Woodruff was among several colleagues, friends and family who spoke at the event, which was attended by, among others, Katie Couric, Chuck Todd, Ann Curry, Don Lemon, NBCU News Group chairman Andy Lack, and former NBC News president Les Crystal. While the honor was all Ifill’s, the roomful of journalists could not avoid the news of the day: the coverage of the Trump administration.

“Gwen is looking down on us now urging us not to be deterred,” said Woodruff. “If she were with us today, she would be leading the charge.”

gwen ifillIfill’s friend of nearly 30 years, former ABC News correspondent and NPR host Michele Norris, joked that not having Ifill around to cover the early days of the Trump administration is a shame. “A Gwen Ifill-Sean Spicer interview would be an epic Melissa McCarthy-Queen Latifah smack down,” she joked.

“This award is like an exclamation point,” said an emotional Norris. “How lucky we are to be alive in the time of Gwen Ifill.”

PBS NewsHour ep Sara Just honored Ifill’s “deep well of curiosity and empathy,” adding, she was always “steely with her expectations and standards.” Just also announced the show will launch the Gwen Iffil Fellowship this summer.

Before and after the lunch we caught up with several TV newsers on hand. “We’re on Trump time,” Lack said, as we asked about his networks’ coverage and ratings growth. Former Today show co-anchor Ann Curry told us she is working on several projects currently, and that we should see her back on air soon. (She also hadn’t seen the Page Six item about her catching up with her “good friend” ex-NBCer Tamron Hall the other night.) Couric was seated at a table with Lemon, and former ABC News correspondent Lynn Sherr, who is a Chancellor judge.

The event ended with a video congratulations from former Pres. Barack Obama, who recorded the message last fall, before Ifill passed. In it, Obama urged the news media to continue holding those in power to account, something Ifill made her mission on a daily basis, for nearly 40 years.