Gwen Ifill may be one of TV's best-known political journalists, with stints moderating vice presidential debates and a more visible role as a senior correspondent on The PBS NewsHour. But in recent years, it seems talk about Ifill centers on the jobs she hasn't gotten.
Ifill recently found her name on the short list to replace George Stephanopoulos on ABC's Sunday politics show This Week, when the former Bill Clinton aide left to co-host Good Morning America. "I realized somewhere along the way that I have one of the best jobs in journalism," Ifill said last week, acknowledging she met with ABC before CNN foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour was hired. "A lot of people in our business get obsessed with anchor changes and miss the more fundamental changes at a program."
This week, Ifill joins the NewsHour in the Tampa Bay area for four days of public discussions, culminating with a town hall meeting featuring Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers; former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez; former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis; Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; and Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe. It will air at 9:30 p.m. Friday on WEDU-Ch. 3.
Ifill will lead a discussion at 8 this morning on the changing media landscape with a panel featuring St. Petersburg Times editor, CEO and chairman Paul Tash and John Schueler, president of Media General's news outlets in Florida, including the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-Ch. 8. The discussion takes place in St. Petersburg at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, 801 Third St. S, a school for journalists that owns the St. Petersburg Times; see www.wedu.org/newshour for information on attending.
Before Ifill asks questions here, she answered a few of mine.
What is the future of media, anyway?
I don't think anybody claims to know the answer; I think they're making it up. (On the NewsHour), we're in business to deliver in-depth, serious journalism across a broad platform. Is that platform sitting in front of a camera talking to people no longer home at 6:30 p.m.? Is it Twittering? If you don't find a way to adapt, you will die.
Are the recent changes at the NewsHour, beefing up your Web presence and shortening stories, a reflection of that attitude?
It's a 100 percent reflection. PBS catches pneumonia when everybody else has a cold. When I came to PBS from NBC, a long story at NBC news was two minutes long; a short story at the NewsHour was five minutes long. Now, we've tightened that up. We're just trying to find a more compelling, leaner way of telling the story.
Why come to the Tampa Bay area?
In Florida, as you know, there are always multiple stories … a political story, environmental story, foreclosures and health care — all that can be told outside of Washington.