Historic First For Women’s Journalism – Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff to Co-Anchor ‘NewsHour’


The PBS “NewsHour,” which was co-anchored for decades by the two men who created it, will soon be co-anchored by two women.

PBS announced on Tuesday that Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff would take over the nightly newscast in September, putting an end to the rotating anchor format that has been in effect for several years. Ms. Ifill and Ms. Woodruff will also share the managing editor responsibilities for the program.

The appointments are another milestone for women on television and in journalism, seven years after Katie Couric became the first solo anchor of a network nightly newscast. PBS noted in a news release that “this will mark the first time a network broadcast has had a female co-anchor team.”

The co-anchor arrangement harks back to the 1970s, when Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil founded the nightly newscast that was later named “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” The two men jointly presented the program until 1995, when Mr. MacNeil retired. Mr. Lehrer continued to anchor until 2011, when he retired. Their company, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, remains in charge of the “NewsHour,” and they were involved in the discussions that culminated in Tuesday’s announcement.

“If Gwen and I can be the team that Jim and Robin were, we will consider that a success,” Ms. Woodruff said in a telephone interview.

Asked what advice the two former co-anchors had given them, Ms. Ifill said in a separate interview, “They told us to stick close together and to stay friends.”

Ms. Woodruff and Ms. Ifill already are close, having crossed paths in Washington, where they both live, countless times, and having “appeared on endless panels together discussing women in journalism,” as Ms. Ifill put it.

Ms. Ifill, who is black, said she and Ms. Woodruff were conscious of the gender context of their appointment.

“When I was a little girl watching programs like this — because that’s the kind of nerdy family we were — I would look up and not see anyone who looked like me in any way. No women. No people of color,” she said.

She continued, “I’m very keen about the fact that a little girl now, watching the news, when they see me and Judy sitting side by side, it will occur to them that that’s perfectly normal. That it won’t seem like any big breakthrough at all.”


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