Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sane Men Love Gwen Ifill

This weekend I got the rare opportunity to spend an hour and a half with commentator Gwen Ifill, who is neither common nor a 'tater. This was not in person, of course-- don't be silly.

Many Friday evenings I ensconce myself at home (those days y'all were just thinking of are mostly past, thanks). I while away the hours not conferrin' with the flowers, but kicked back in the company of three intelligent women: Rachel Maddow (her eponymous show), Belva Davis (This Week in California), and Gwen Ifill (Washington Week). Friday the 13th was such an evening.

The extra hour with Gwen happened Saturday morning because she had a live appearance on BookTV (C-SPAN2) which was at the Miami Book Fair. Usually the Miami Book Fair gives us more than our RDA of Carl Hiaasen, and nothing against Carl personally-- his shtick is entertaining and all-- but it was nice to see Gwen holding court with the appreciative Miami crowd, and actually taking questions from people of color. (If you think I'm incorrectly implying something about that particular book fair, I won't argue. I don't watch every minute of it.)

Since this was a book tour appearance for The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (just released in paperback, new afterword, blah blah) Gwen did not have to maintain her journalistic game face. This allowed her fine sense of humor and some decent mid-level snark to come through. As a bit of a curmudgeon myself, I appreciate the well-placed one-liner or clever aside, and she came through.

Gwen was also as courteous as possible, but no more so, to a woman who tried to hijack the Q&A portion to preach about a personal crusade against child labor. This was quite the professional save as Gwen let her know that a question was required if you were going to hog the mike. She disengaged the woman from the stand by accepting a brochure, and went to the next person in line, just like that. No fair security required. Well done.

The final question asked about an online project that was new to me, and would have been worth the hour even if Gwen hadn't been fascinating and snarky enough. The question gave her an opening to discuss her involvement with The HistoryMakers, which has been compiling African-American video oral histories for some years. Gwen has done a few of these interviews and you can access them directly here.

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