When Yamiche Alcindor found out last month that she was going to be the next presenter on the PBS show Washington Week, she immediately felt the emotions of the moment.
“I basically cried right away,” recalled Ms. Alcindor, “and thought of Gwen.”
Washington Week, a quiet redoubt on the screaming battlefield of political television, is most closely associated with its longtime host Gwen Ifill, the pioneering journalist who broke barriers as a black woman in the Washington press corps.
Prior to her death in 2016, Ms. Ifill also mentored Ms. Alcindor, the White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour. Beginning with Friday’s episode, Ms. Alcindor, 34, will take over Ms. Ifill’s old chair at the head of Washington Week. She succeeds Robert Costa, a Washington Post reporter who took office in 2017 and left the show that year.
PBS and WETA-TV, the Washington subsidiary that produces the show, announced the appointment of Ms. Alcindor on Tuesday.
“I know how much ‘Washington Week’ meant to Gwen and how much she put her stamp on the legacy of the show,” Ms. Alcindor, a Haitian-American woman, said in an interview. “I also feel this incredible responsibility to think deeply about taking this and making it a show that people want to see, that people believe lives up to their great legacy.”
Ms. Alcindor will continue to report on President Biden for NewsHour while continuing to contribute to NBC News and MSNBC. She was previously a reporter for the New York Times and USA Today.
She said that she had been a Washington Week viewer since college and that she wanted to expand the scope of a show that is sometimes imbued with DC Arcana. She also plans to maintain the bourgeois tone – “a sense of respect and respectability,” as she put it – that has been the show’s signature since its debut in 1967.
“When you work and live in Washington it can feel like everything is about what’s going on in DC,” said Ms. Alcindor. “What has guided my journalism so much is how vulnerable populations are affected by these guidelines. That will be my directional light. “
As a White House reporter, Ms. Alcindor became known as a frequent target of former President Donald J. Trump’s anger at press conferences. Once in 2018, Mr Trump labeled her question “racist” after asking if his policies had encouraged white nationalists. “As a black woman, it wasn’t the first time someone had targeted me or said something about me that I knew wasn’t true,” recalled Ms. Alcindor.
When Ms. Alcindor was first booked as a guest on NBC’s Meet the Press, she called Ms. Ifill “in a panic”.
She recalled Ms. Ifill’s advice: “She was basically telling me, ‘You are a reporter who knows as much as the people at this table. You deserve it and you are ready for it. ‘”