Mentored Gwen Ifill?
Ifill is moderator and managing editor of "Washington
Week" and senior correspondent for "The NewsHour
with Jim Lehrer."
coming to PBS, she spent five years at NBC News as chief
congressional and political correspondent. A veteran
journalist, Ifill joined NBC News from The
New York Times
where she covered the White House and politics. She
also covered national and local affairs for The
The most important lesson I was taught was the lesson
of possibility, and that was taught to me by my parents.
I knew I wanted to be a journalist; I knew I wanted to
be a journalist since I was in elementary school. When
I got to college I had a college professor at Simmon's
College in Boston named Alden Poole. He worked for years
at newspapers in Boston and he would simply show up in
class and tell us stories about the newsroom, which to
me was incredibly romantic--the idea of what happens in
a newsroom and how news gets covered.
is a crusty guy teaching at a women's college, teaching
us about how to function in a newsroom but not putting
any limitations on how we should function. And it was
because of him that I had my idea of newspapering, and
my love of newspapering confirmed, that this was a place
where I could do this. He helped me get my internship
that led to my first job which was at the Boston Herald
American, his old newspaper; which, even though this
was the 70's, it was a newspaper which was a throwback
to the front page, with lots of old guys...old white
guys, frankly, who'd never seen anything like me--a
college-educated black woman. And they didn't know how
to deal with me. And I had Alden Poole in my head saying,
"Ah, you can do it. Just go in there and show 'em,
give 'em what for." And because he didn't put those
limitations on me that I was talking about, and because
it was always demonstrated what the possibilities were,
I felt the echo throughout my career.
the way at these corners that you turn in life, there
are people, if you're fortunate, who can nudge you in
a direction, or urge you to be courageous, and that,
to me, is the essence of what mentoring is.
ideal is to have older people sharing with younger people
what they've already learned and younger people sharing
right back, and telling them what it is that they don't
know. I never am more stimulated than when I'm in a
room with someone who is younger who can tell me something
that I don't know.
young people want is to have someone listen to them,
to listen to their aspirations, not to judge them, not
to tell them why they can't do it-- often that's their
parents who will do that for them! From you, they want
a sense of possibility. And that's what a good mentor
does--gives you a sense of everything that's possible
for you, not only with their own example, but also with
their faith in you.