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Longtime PBS broadcaster Gwen Ifill dies at 61

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FILE - In this April 11, 2011 file photo shows Gwen Ifill attends the New York Women in Communications' 2011 Matrix Awards in New York. PBS NewsHour" has named Ifill and Judy Woodruff as co-anchors and co-managing editors of the weeknight broadcast. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, File)

Longtime political broadcaster Gwen Ifill has died. She was 61.

Ifill was a longtime news anchor for PBS News, where she served as co-host of PBS' "NewsHour" and was a moderator for PBS' "Washington Week in Review." She began her tenure with the network in October 1999.

PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger said in a statement, according to Fox News:

It is with extreme sadness that we share the news that Gwen Ifill passed away earlier today surrounded by family and friends.

Our sorrow at her passing is a part of our profound gratitude for all that she did for our system and our nation. It was an honor to know Gwen and to work with her. All of us at PBS express our sincere condolences to Gwen's friends and family.

Ifill began her long journalism career at the Boston Herald-American in the late 1970s. She went on to report for the Baltimore Evening Sun, the Washington Post, the New York Times and NBC before settling at PBS.

She took a leave of absence from the network earlier this year for unspecified medical issues and was scheduled to take part in PBS' election coverage but was noticeably absent. The network did not previously provide any details concerning her absence.

PBS "NewsHour" executive producer Sara Just said in a statement, according to Politico:

Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change. She was a mentor to so many across the industry and her professionalism was respected across the political spectrum. She was a journalist's journalist and set an example for all around her.

So many people in the audience felt that they knew and adored her. She had a tremendous combination of warmth and authority. She was stopped on the street routinely by people who just wanted to give her a hug and considered her a friend after years of seeing her on TV. We will forever miss her terribly.

Aside from being one of the most prominent black broadcasters in American history, Ifill most famously moderated two vice presidential debates: one between Dick Cheney and John Edwards in 2004 and another between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden in 2008.

Ifill was to receive the 2016 John Chancellor Award from Columbia University on Wednesday.

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