From high-profile Sarah Palin debates to Queen Latifah, Gwen Ifill reports afull life
Gwen Ifill is a journalist, political analyst and best-selling author. She moderated both the 2004 and 2008 Vice Presidential Debates and is the host of PBS' Washington Week. Ifill will be in Houston Saturday at the University of Houston Downtown to sign copies of her book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama and speak on the importance of journalism.
In a chat with CultureMap, Ifill discusses the difference between information and journalism, gives respect to Houston mayor Annise Parker and talks political caricatures that go beyond Sarah Palin.
CultureMap: How do you feel about our new(ish) mayor? Do you think her experience is comparable in any way to what you write in Politics and Race in the Age of Obama?
Gwen Ifill: It's comparable in that it's a breakthrough. The thing about race in this country is that it's always been a big national scar. It operates on its own plane when it comes to talking about conflict and breaking through. I know I've heard (Annise Parker) say that she doesn't consider herself a lesbian first; it's just part of who she is, and that's very much the way Barack Obama talks about race.
CM: Is journalism more or less important now than it was 10 or 15 years ago?
GI: It's more important. Because we have so much more information, it demands good journalism. People confuse journalism and information. Telling people what happens is information; explaining why it matters, that's journalism.
CM: I graduated from journalism school, and am now a reporter at a web-only publication. Do you think the newspaper industry is dead?
GI: No, I don't think it's dead. I think we can all happily co-exist. There are still things you get from a paper that you can't get online. The thing I miss the most when I read online-only is the story you come across in the paper that you wouldn't have clicked online because it doesn't otherwise interest you. In print, you're likely to run across something you wouldn't be otherwise exposed to.
CM: What Web sites do you visit when you start your day to get the news?
GI:I get three papers delivered to my door, and I read two or three more at work. Online, I look at the LA Times and at news aggregators. I could follow links all day, and on the way you end up reading everything from the St. Louis Post Dispatch to Salon, Slate and other online-only news organizations. The beauty of the Web is that it's all out there, you just have to be more assiduous about what's worthwhile and what's not.
CM: How do you feel about being portrayed by Queen Latifah on Saturday Night Live? Did she do you the same justice that Tina Fey did to Sarah Palin?
GI: I love being portrayed by Queen Latifah. She did it in 2004, as well, so I knew she would do me justice. And this time the only other option would have been Kenan Thompson playing me in drag, so I was honored to have Latifah.