JUDY WOODRUFF | Anchor and managing editor, PBS Newshour
Watching Judy Woodruff lead NewsHour is like being able to take a deep breath after the information waterboarding that is media consumption, circa 2017. Woodruff's steady mien, substantive interviews, and impeccably nonpartisan reporting take you outside whatever bubble you're in—left or right—and leave you feeling that, even if you don't agree with shifts in public policy, you understand them. "Judy is the gold standard of journalists," says NBC's Andrea Mitchell, one of Woodruff's best friends.
An Army brat, Woodruff was spurred on by her mother, who never finished high school but urged her daughter to put her education and career first. "Diapers and dishes can wait," she would tell Woodruff. "The constant refrain was, 'Get your education; you want to be independent,' " Woodruff says. "She was dependent on my father." Woodruff earned a political science degree from Duke, but opted out of politics after working on Capitol Hill one summer and hearing female colleagues say that the "serious positions" went to men. She decided to try her hand at reporting—scoring a job at a Georgia ABC affiliate, where her interviewer quipped, "How could I not hire somebody with legs like yours?"
Her foot (and leg) in the door, Woodruff quickly made a name for herself as a serious journalist. She went on to cover Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign for NBC and, after his surprise win, was named White House correspondent. In 1993, she made the jump to CNN, where she anchored Inside Politics for 12 years, before leaving to teach and work on documentaries for PBS, eventually taking over NewsHour alongside the late Gwen Ifill in 2013, making them the first female co-anchor team on a network news show.
Few can compete with Woodruff's institutional knowledge of Washington. She has been present when history was made—deeply reporting the 1978 Camp David Accords and witnessing the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. She's interviewed every U.S. president since Carter and most of the high-level advisers who support them.
Even with her front-row seat to the evolution of TV journalism, she says she's struggling to come to terms with the current media landscape. "On one hand, I absolutely believe what I've always believed: The role of the media is to report the facts, to hold [public officials] accountable. That doesn't change, but what can change is the technology," she says, noting that the recent election—with news frequently made and reported over Twitter and other social media outlets—marks the beginning of a "new journalism world."
To compete in that new world, Woodruff believes women must make further inroads into typically male areas of journalism, such as management—"making decisions about hiring, story assignments, and coverage"—and opinion writing. "Those perspectives are critical. We need mothers to speak up, single women, women of different backgrounds, minorities," she says, noting that Ifill's death from uterine cancer last year was not only a personal loss to her family and friends, but the loss of a role model for everyone. "We need more women of color to come along and inspire others."
LISA MURKOWSKI | U.S. Senator, Alaska
Lisa Murkowski wears a slim golden bangle around her wrist. It's a replica of the rubber bracelets her campaign passed out for her famed 2010 election, where she lost the Republican primary to a Tea Party candidate and, instead of slinking away in defeat, ran as an independent in a write-in campaign—and won. The bracelets were for people to take into the voting booth to help them spell her name (incorrectly spelled ballots could be contested).
It's fitting that Murkowski would show such grit and determination. Alaska is, after all, the last frontier state left in the country, a place where, she explains, there is no electrical grid in most areas and many residents live off food they hunt. At the same time, Anchorage, where she lives, boasts the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the U.S. "In my sons' elementary school, where I was PTA president, we have 57 different languages spoken at home," she says. The diverse crowd is attracted to the opportunity of a growing state. "In Alaska, people don't question why you're there. They just ask what you can contribute." This is one reason Murkowski introduced, with a bipartisan group of senators, legislation to prevent deportation of DREAMers (undocumented immigrants brought here as children): "We need to make sure there's a positive path forward for them," she says.