Journalist Gwen Ifill speaks at The Elton John AIDS Foundation and UNAIDS breakfast at the Russell Senate Office Building on July 24, 2012 in Washington DC

*As summer gives way to fall, the 2012 presidential campaign begins its transition from convention to debate season with tonight’s nomination acceptance speech from President Barack Obama.


Network news divisions and cable news channels are already prepping for the three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate scheduled in October.  While Fox News and MSNBC will cover from their obvious places on the political spectrum, and CNN still struggles to paint itself as non-partisan, PBS continues to wave at viewers from the sidelines – offering itself as an oasis for viewers craving depth in 2012 election coverage.

“If anything cries out for explanation and analysis, it’s these political conventions in these political years,” PBS anchor Gwen Ifill told EURweb. “If we have access to the smartest minds who are looking at this, as well as the smartest voices from around the country, that’s our role. We’re not CSPAN. We’re to take it and explain it, not just show it. And we are in a unique position to do it in what is kind of a cacophonous environment. Our numbers show it; people are seeking that out.”

Ifill and her PBS colleague Judy Woodruff just made television news history as the first all-female team ever to host coverage of the conventions. It was a step forward for women, but it comes on the heels of a setback for minorities as we approach debate season.

When moderators for the presidential debates were announced last month, and not one of the four were of color, Ifill spoke out against the lack of diversity, telling the New York Times she was shocked and “livid.” Also, for the first time in eight years, Ifill had been left off the list.

Adding insult to injury, her PBS colleague Jim Lehrer – who was chosen as a moderator, along with CBS’s  Bob Schieffer, CNN’s Candy Crowley and ABC’s Martha Raddatz – was selected despite insisting that his moderating days were over.

Below, Ifill reflects on her eight years of serving as a debate moderator, memories of her infamous Sarah Palin /Joe Biden debate in 2008 and how some young “Saturday Night Live” fans really think she’s Queen Latifah.