Judy Woodruff and the late Gwen Ifill, who broke new ground in journalism as the award-winning co-anchors and managing editors of the “PBS NewsHour,” are the recipients of the 2017 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, Arizona State University announced today.
Woodruff, the anchor and managing editor of the “PBS NewsHour,” will receive the 34th annual award, given by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, at a luncheon ceremony Oct. 19 at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix Hotel. Woodruff also will accept the award on behalf of Ifill, who served with her as co-anchor and co-managing editor from 2013 until her death from cancer in November.
“It’s an incredible honor to be recognized by the esteemed Cronkite School at Arizona State University, a place that has set new standards for educating the next generation of journalists, and generations to follow,” Woodruff said. “I grew up watching Walter Cronkite, then was fortunate to get to know him a little: He represented the very best of our craft. I’m humbled to receive this award in his name, along with my dear friend and longtime colleague, the late Gwen Ifill, who has left a legacy of excellence and dedication that touched all who knew her.”
Woodruff and Ifill’s ascent to co-anchors at the “PBS NewsHour” marked a milestone in journalism. No national news organization had ever paired two female journalists as co-anchors for an evening news broadcast. The tandem built upon the NewsHour’s four-decade reputation for providing reliable reporting, analysis and live studio interviews with world leaders and newsmakers.
At PBS, Ifill also was the moderator and managing editor of the primetime news and public affairs program “Washington Week,” for which she won a George Foster Peabody Award for her coverage of the 2008 presidential election. Ifill, who joined both “Washington Week” and “PBS NewsHour” in 1999, also moderated the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008.
Woodruff served as the chief Washington correspondent for “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” from 1983-1993. She also anchored PBS’ award-winning weekly documentary series “Frontline with Judy Woodruff” from 1984-1990. In 2011, she was the principal reporter for the PBS documentary “Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime.”
Before coming to PBS, both Woodruff and Ifill were already accomplished veteran journalists. Ifill was chief congressional and political correspondent for NBC News, White House correspondent for The New York Times, and a local and national political reporter for The Washington Post. She also reported for the Baltimore Evening Sun and the Boston Herald American. Woodruff previously was anchor and senior correspondent for CNN, where she anchored the political news program “Inside Politics” for 12 years. She also was the White House correspondent for NBC News from 1977-1982.
“Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill are both trailblazers in broadcast journalism who embody the legacy of Walter Cronkite,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “We are honored to have Judy at ASU to celebrate the accomplishments of two great journalists with our students, alumni and friends.”
Woodruff, a graduate of Duke University, is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Broadcast Journalism/Television, the CINE Lifetime Achievement Award and the Duke Distinguished Alumni Award. She is the author of the book “This is Judy Woodruff at the White House.”
Ifill was a graduate of Simmons College in Boston and received numerous honors throughout her career, including the National Press Club's highest honor, the Fourth Estate Award. She also was the author of “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.”
Both journalists have previously spoken at high-profile events at the Cronkite School. Woodruff was the keynote speaker at the school’s convocation ceremony in 2015, and Ifill led a lecture on diversity at the Cronkite School in 2013.
Two months before her death, Ifill took part in a Cronkite School celebration in Washington, D.C., honoring the life and legacy of Water Cronkite in advance of what would have been his 100th birthday. At the celebration, she alluded to the journalistic values of honesty, accuracy and integrity that Cronkite passed on to future generations of journalists. She called it “the salvation for the news business.”
Woodruff and Ifill are just the third pair of co-winners in the history of the Cronkite Award. They join fellow NewsHour anchors Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer as well as CBS founder William Paley and former CBS President Frank Stanton. Ifill is the first person to posthumously receive the honor.
Other Cronkite Award recipients include TV news anchors Scott Pelley, Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts; newspaper journalists Ben Bradlee, Helen Thomas and Bob Woodward; and media executives Katharine Graham and Al Neuharth. Cronkite personally presented the award during its first quarter-century. The CBS News anchor died in 2009.
The Cronkite School, named in Cronkite’s honor in 1984, prepares the next generation of journalists in both the time-honored fundamentals embraced by Cronkite and the digital skills necessary to thrive as journalists in the digital age.
Housed in a $71 million state-of-the-art media complex in downtown Phoenix, the school has been featured in The New York Times, The Times of London and USA Today as a leader in 21st century journalism education and innovation.
The Cronkite School is the home of Arizona PBS, which serves as a journalistic teaching hospital for hundreds of students who work under 15 full-time faculty in professional programs that include a nightly television news broadcast on Arizona PBS, digital reporting bureaus in Phoenix, Washington and Los Angeles, business and borderlands reporting bureaus, an entrepreneurial digital innovation lab, a digital production desk, an audience engagement bureau and the Carnegie-Knight News21 investigative reporting program.