I’m very sad to learn that Gwen Ifill has died. Co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour and host of Washington Week, she was conspicuous by her absence during the final run-up to the presidential election.
I remember reading seeing her byline in the New York Times back in the 1990s. But I didn’t realize that she had a local connection until I looked up her bio: She was a graduate of Simmons College and had worked for the Boston Herald American.
Her humane voice will be missed in the strange days to come.
My “Beat the Press” colleague Callie Crossley has the best idea for George Stephanopoulos’ replacement on ABC’s “This Week”: Gwen Ifill, who would have been a far better choice to succeed the late Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” than David Gregory — predictably — has proved to be.
But if an Ifill hire isn’t in the works, we might get the next best thing. The Politico’s Mike Allen reports that ABC is negotiating with legendary “Nightline” anchor Ted Koppel, now in busy semi-retirement, to moderate “This Week” three Sundays a month.
Koppel was one of the finest broadcast journalists of his generation — the successor to Murrow and Cronkite to a far greater extent than any of the folks who have anchored the network evening newscasts in the post-Cronkite era. He’s a tough interviewer and would bring unparalleled gravitas to the job. Ducking a question from Ted Koppel is not the same as ducking a question from Jake Tapper, Terry Moran or anyone else.
I do have one reservation. After Russert’s death in 2008, I thought retired anchor Tom Brokaw was an excellent choice to fill the moderator’s slot on an interim basis. Instead, Brokaw seemed cranky, sour and bored.
The Brokaw lesson is that it would be great to have Koppel back — but only if he’s prepared to bring his “A” game.
Today was the first time I’d heard there was any controversy over the choice of Gwen Ifill as moderator of tomorrow’s vice-presidential debate. It seems that Ifill has a book coming out that is largely* about Barack Obama.
Adam Reilly does a good job of putting together a timeline that shows everyone knew about Ifill’s book back in July and August, but that no one on the Republican side cared until John McCain and Sarah Palin began to tank.
Jack Shafer, meanwhile, observes that few media figures are as fair as Ifill. He’s right. The McCain campaign couldn’t possibly believe Ifill is going to stick it to Palin tomorrow. Ergo, it looks like excuses are being prepared in advance in case Palin performs poorly.
*Thursday update: Not even. It’s partly about Obama.
How thin is the NBC News bench? The Los Angeles Times reports that the top three contenders for Tim Russert’s “Meet the Press” perch are David Gregory, Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough. Good grief. I’m adding “Face the Nation” to my podcast subscriptions right now. (Via Romenesko.)
Media Nation’s top two (and extremely unlikely) contenders: Gwen Ifill and Aaron Brown.