Gwen Ifill Arizona Horizon Appearance

More from this show

On April 1, 2013, Gwen Ifill appeared on Arizona Horizon to talk about her career and journalism. We will replay a portion of that interview.

GWEN IFILL APPEARED HERE ON "ARIZONA HORIZON" IN 2013. HERE IS A PORTION OF THE 2013 INTERVIEW.
-PACKAGE-
LET'S TALK ABOUT HERE AND WHY YOU ARE HERE. YOU ARE SPEAKING ABOUT DIVERSITY IN JOURNALISM. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

THAT MEANS WE CAN'T TELL THE STORIES ABOUT THE COUNTRY AND OUR WORLD UNLESS WE HAVE PEOPLE TELLING THE STORIES THAT HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF IT. TO ME, IT'S ONE THING TO HAVE PEOPLE THAT LOOK DIFFERENT, BUT I WANT PEOPLE THAT THINK DIFFERENTLY SO WE ARE NOT SURPRISED BY STORIES UNDERNEATH US. IF YOU HAVE A LOT OF ES STETTIC REPORTERS IN IT, THEY MAY BE TEMPTED TO SHIFT TO THE IMMIGRATION STORY. IF YOU HAVE A NEWS ROOM WITH GAYS IN IT, THEY MAY BE MORE SHIFTING IN THE POINT OF VIEW OF GAY MARRIAGE.

YOU HAVE SOME CRITICS WHO WILL SAY A FACT IS A FACT IS A FACT NO MATTER WHO IS PRESENTING THE FACT. HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT?

THE FACTS DON'T GET PRESENTED. THERE ARE LOTS OF FACTS IF YOU DON'T HAVE SOMEONE AWARE OF IT. REPORTERS ASK QUESTIONS FOR A LIVING, BUT THEY HAVE TO KNOW WHERE TO ASK QUESTIONS. THE BIAS IN NEWS COVERAGE IN THE STORIES WE DON'T TELL AND WE DON'T TELL BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE ANYONE THERE.

YOUR SUPERIORS THOUGHT A YOUNG BLACK WOMAN, LET'S SEND HER TO DO A STORY ON YOUNG BLACK FAMILIES?

I DON'T REMEMBER HAVING THAT HAPPEN TO ME. MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE I CAME ALONG WITH A LOT OF GROUND BREAKERS BEFORE ME BECAUSE THERE WAS A NEED FOR IT IN THE SAME WAY REPUBLICANS ARE LOOKING FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM BECAUSE THEY GOT THEIR BUTTS BEAT AT THE POLLS. AFTER THE RIOTS IN THE EAST COAST IN THE 1960S, PEOPLE SAID MAYBE WE SHOULD BE REPRESENTED IN THE NEWS ROOMS. BY THE TIME I CAME ALONG WE COVERED ALL SORTS OF ISSUES. MY PRESENCE IN THE NEWS ROOM MEANT WE COULD SPOT THINGS THAT MIGHT BE INSENSITIVE. I MIGHT SEE STORIES IN THE CHURCH WHERE OTHERS MIGHT BE.

WHAT KIND OF REACTION DID YOU GET WHEN YOU BROUGHT THOSE THINGS UP?

MOSTLY A GOOD REACTION. IT WASN'T THAT PEOPLE DIDN'T WANT TO TELL THE STORY, THEY JUST WEREN'T EXPOSED OR DIDN'T KNOW.

I WANT TO GET BACK TO HOW YOU STARTED AGAIN. WAS THERE EVER A POINT IN YOUR YOUNG LIFE WHEN SOMETHING CLICKED, YOU DID AN INTERVIEW, READ SOMETHING IN THE NEWSPAPER OR MAGAZINE AND YOU SAID, I THINK I WANT TO DO THIS.

JOURNALISM?

YES.

I WANTED TO BE A JOURNALIST SINCE I WAS YOUNG. WE GREW UP IN THE HOUSEHOLD WHERE PEOPLE WATCHED THE NEWS FOR FUN. WE SAW THINGS HAPPENING, HISTORY UNFOLDING. MY PARENTS TAUGHT US THAT WAS IMPORTANT. WHAT I WANTED TO DO WAS WRITE ABOUT IT. I LIKED WRITING. I WANTED A DEADLINE. JOURNALISM SEEMED REASONABLE. I WAS A CURIOUS, ANNOYING LITTLE GIRL. I WANTED TO ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS. THAT SEEMED TO BE THE BEST PLACE TO BE.

IT'S A GOOD PLACE FOR SOMEONE CURIOUS.

NOT SO MUCH ANNOYING.

WHAT DID YOUR FAMILY THINK OF THE IDEA?

MY FAMILY WAS HAPPY ABOUT THE CHOICES I MADE. THEY WERE ABLE TO SEE ME DO WELL IN NEWSPAPER AND TELEVISION.

WHEN YOU STARTED IN PRINTS, WAS TELEVISION AN OPTION FOR YOU?

IT WAS AN OPTION I REJECTED. I DIDN'T LIKE TELEVISION. I THOUGHT IT WAS TOO SHALLOW, AND IT WAS RIGHT. MOST OF MY CAREER I SPENT WORKING IN NEWSPAPERS. I FOUND I HAD THE ABILITY TO TELL THE STORY IN DEPTH WHICH IS WHY PBS IS SO PER FORECAST FOR HE. PEOPLE SEE THE IMPACT AND REACH MORE HOMES. I GET TO GO DEEPER. THAT'S MY FIRST LOVE.

DO YOU THINK IN GENERAL, TELEVISION NEWS, BROADCASTING, IS IT STILL TOO SHALLOW?

YEAH, IT IS. THERE WERE SO FEW PLACES TO GO FOR INFORMATION. NOW THERE ARE SO MANY PLACES TO GO. IF YOU WANT SHALLOW NEWS, YOU CAN. IF YOU WANT DOCUMENTARIES, YOU CAN. IT'S NOW ON A DOZEN TELEVISION STATIONS RATHER THAN THREE.

IS THAT HEALTHY TO HAVE SO MANY OPTIONS? IT'S LIKE IF YOU ARE OUT TO BUY SHOES AND YOU WALK INTO A SHOE STORE AND THERE ARE 47,000 PAIRS OF SHOES STARING AT YOU, THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

A MAN WHO DOESN'T SHOP FOR SHOES. I WALK IN, I KNOW WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR, WHAT FEELS COMFORTABLE, WHAT COLOR I WANT AND WHAT OUTFIT I WANT TO MATCH. IT'S THE SAME AS PEOPLE LOOKING AT A GRAND ARRAY OF NEWS OPTIONS.

IS THAT HEALTHY

I THINK IT'S COMPLETELY HEALTHY. I LOVE THE WALTER CRONKITES, BUT I DON'T THINK WE'LL EVER GO TO ONE GUY SAYING THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW AND IT'S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW. NOW IT'S ON THE NEWS CONSUMER TO GET THE INFORMATION.

HERE'S WHAT I WANT TO KNOW. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT EVERYONE THAT THINKS LIKE ME WANTS TO KNOW. I DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE OTHER SIDE THINKS.

THAT'S A RISK. I CALL IT SILO JOURNALISM. PEOPLE TURN ON THE STATION THEY KNOW WILL TELL THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO BELIEVE AND END THE DAY THE SAME WAY. I THINK THAT'S A PROBLEM AND WE HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO BREAK DOWN THAT WALL.

IS THERE A WAY TO DO THAT, DO YOU THINK?

I THINK WE HAVE TO KEEP GOING.

YOU MODERATED "WASHINGTON WEEK." IS IT A CHALLENGE TO BE A -- WE DO SOME OF IT HERE. I KNOW A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THIS, BUT NOT TO YOUR LEVEL. IS IT A CHALLENGE TO BE A MODERATOR WHEN SOMEONE IS SAYING SOMETHING AND YOU KNOW IT'S NOT ACCURATE. HOW DO YOU DO THAT? HOW DO YOU WORK THAT?

POLITELY. YOU PRESS THE QUESTION, REPEAT THE QUESTION. AT SOME POINT, BECAUSE I HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE IN WASHINGTON THAT COME ON THE PROGRAM AND UNDERSTAND THE LIMITATION OF TIME. THEY THINK IF THEY SAY THE SAME THING OVER AND OTHER THEY'LL SUCK UP THE TIME. YOU HAVE HAD THAT HAPPEN.

OH, SURE.

THE THING IS TO TRUST THE AUDIENCE, MAKE IT CLEAR THAT THE QUESTION HAS NOT BEEN ANSWERED AND MOVE ON. YOU ARE MAKING A LOT OF SNAP DECISIONS ABOUT HOW MUCH TIME YOU WANT TO SPEND ON ONE TOPIC, ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE NOT THERE TO ANSWER THE QUESTION.

IT'S NICE WITH THE PBS AUDIENCE. YOU ASK THE QUESTION, THEY DODGE IT AND THE AUDIENCE IS SAYING, THEY DODGED IT.

USUALLY THEY THINK OF A BETTER WAY TO ASK THE QUESTION AS WELL. THE OVERALL MEDIA. LIBERAL BIAS HERE AND EVERYWHERE. HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT?

WHEN SOMEONE ACCUSES YOU OF LIBERAL BIAS IS BECAUSE THEY ARE CONSERVATIVE. THOSE THAT ACCUSE YOU OF BEING CONSERVATIVE BIAS IS BECAUSE THEY ARE LIBERAL. THE VAST MAJORITY SEE THE WORLD AS GRAY. MY JOB IS TO TELL YOU WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW AND LET YOU MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND. IF YOU THINK I'M LIBERAL, IT'S BASICALLY BECAUSE OF YOUR HEAD, NOT WHAT I SAID.
-END PACKAGE-

Barry Gibb singing (Bee Gees: In Our Own Time)
airs Feb. 24

Bee Gees: In Our Own Time

Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson
airs Feb. 23

The Highwaymen: Live at Nassau Coliseum

A cute little duckling with text reading: Arizona PBS Ducks in a Row Event
March 6

Getting Your Ducks in a Row to Avoid Conflict When You Are Gone

A photo of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and photos of his books

Join the all new PBS Books Readers Club!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: