Gwen Ifill, 'PBS NewsHour' Anchor, Is Dead at 61

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Gwen Ifill, a co-host of the long-running PBS NewsHour and a noted debate moderator, has died following a battle with cancer. She was 61.

"It is with extremely heavy hearts that we must share that our dear friend and beloved colleague Gwen Ifill passed away this afternoon following several months of cancer treatment," a statement from PBS NewsHour read. "She was surrounded by loving family and many friends whom we ask that you keep in your thoughts and prayers."

Paula Krager, PBS's president and CEO, celebrated Ifill's career in her own statement.

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"Gwen was one of America's leading lights in journalism and a fundamental reason public media is considered a trusted window on the world by audiences across the nation," Krager said. "Her contributions to thoughtful reporting and civic discourse simply cannot be overstated. She often said that her job was to bring light rather than heat to issues of importance to our society. Gwen did this with grace and a steadfast commitment to excellence."

Sara Just, executive producer for PBS NewsHour alerted staff to the news in an email Monday.

"Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change. She was a mentor to so many across the industry and her professionalism was respected across the political spectrum. She was a journalist's journalist and set an example for all around her," Just wrote in her message.

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"So many people in the audience felt that they knew and adored her. She had a tremendous combination of warmth and authority. She was stopped on the street routinely by people who just wanted to give her a hug and considered her a friend after years of seeing her on TV. We will forever miss her terribly."

New York native Ifill graduated from Simmons College in 1977 and went on to hold positions at The Washington Post, The New York Times and NBC before joining PBS's Washington Week in Review in 1999.

Perhaps best known nationally for her work as a debate moderator, Ifill moderated the 2004 and 2008 vice-presidential debates that pitted Dick Cheney against John Edwards and Joe Biden against Sarah Palin. Ifill also moderated a Democratic primary debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

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Reactions to Ifill's passing and tributes to her work began hitting social media Monday afternoon.

(Originally published by CBS News on Monday, November 14, 2016 at 2:24 pm ET)