When we at Slate heard that Gwen Ifill had died, we reached out to our friend and hers, John Dickerson, for his reaction. The following is what he typed back to us from a cab.
Gwen’s smile. It was so strong it greeted you before you met her. You could read by the light of her smile. And if you could make her laugh that was a prize. The sound of pure joy. Gwen was bright and bursting and full of spirit and soul. Always. The last Washington Week we did together before the Republican convention, she was tired from treatment and still recovering, but her smile was still radiating. She was still hungry to figure out what the story was, questioning all of us before we went onstage with her usual urgency and her delight in pointing at something phony and calling it out.
When I was first asked to be on Washington Week, I never prepared more for an appearance. I wanted to be worthy of her show where she held up reporting and gave you a chance to talk and where she felt so keenly the duty she had to all the people watching.
If you were on Gwen’s show, you became a collector of compliments. People would stop me all across the country to say great things about her. A guy once interrupted me at the gym when I was doing the bench press to tell me how much he loved Gwen.
I sat in for Gwen sometimes. That meant I sat in her office to prepare for Washington Week. The room was clotted with awards of course, but more important were the pictures of Gwen with friends, co-workers—all of us who delighted in being in the warmth of her smile.
We were lucky, those of us who knew Gwen because we spent time in her company, but also because we have her example. So as a tribute to Gwen I will work harder at the job we both love and I’ll try harder to fumble toward what she did with such ease, which is spread love and joy and delight.
And I will put on Hamilton, which she loved so much. Gwen did not throw away her shot.