Yardley native succeeds Gwen Ifill at PBS's 'Washington Week'

Robert Costa, Washington Week, WETA-TV-21042017-0001
Yardley native Robert Costa has been named moderator of PBS' "Washington Week," taking over as the late Gwen Ifill's permanent successor.

Yardley native Robert Costa, a Washington Post political reporter and 2004 Pennsbury High grad, has been named moderator of PBS's Washington Week.

He'll make his debut as the late Gwen Ifill's permanent successor at 8 p.m. Friday. He'd been one of several guest moderators of the weekly roundtable discussion in recent months. Ifill died in November of endometrial cancer. 

"She was a total class act," Costa, 31, said in a phone interview Friday. "No one can follow Gwen Ifill. All I can do is continue to be inspired by her, let her spirit guide the show, and keep the integrity that she cultivated for 17 years as moderator. ... She was the model for how to do Washington Week right, and how to do journalism right."

The show, Costa said, "remains what Gwen did, which is a half-hour, every Friday night, for the best reporters in town to come around and open their notebooks and have a civil conversation."

Costa, a former Washington editor for the National Review, won't be quitting his day job at the Post, where he reports on Congress and the White House.

In March, he wrote about receiving a call  on his cellphone from President Trump  in which the president told him the White House was pulling the health-care bill.

 "It's wild," Costa said of getting the call from a blocked number. "I've known President Trump for quite some time as a reporter, going back to an interview I did with him in the summer of 2013 ... the first interview where he ever spoke about his interest in running in 2016."

Trump, Costa said, "was talking about the same things then -- trade, immigration, and America's not winning enough -- that he talked about during the campaign." What intrigued Costa: "How accessible Trump was."

In 2013, when Costa was still at the National Review, Inquirer columnist Michael Smerconish wrote about the then-27-year-old who'd been invited to the Obama White House for an off-the-record discussion that included some of Washington's most prominent conservative journalists.

Read more: Bucks native makes a splash in Washington

"But just 10 years ago," Smerconish wrote,  "he was a suburban public school class president" at Pennsbury, where, thanks to Costa, Maroon 5 played. He'd wanted John Mayer. Mayer later played at Costa's senior prom.

"I was covering music for the [Bucks County] Courier-Times and also wrote for the school paper, and I got to know some of these bands as a reporter. And at 16, 17, 18, I started to say to Maroon 5, before they were famous, 'Come play at my school.' And I was saying [the same] to John Mayer, who was harder to get, but he ended up playing the prom. It was a fun thing to do ... for my fellow students. We had no money, no connections, but we were able to get some cool things to happen."

After graduating, Costa went to Notre Dame, where he worked at the school TV station and the newspaper. He went on to earn a master's degree from the University of Cambridge. 

This article was updated to clarify which performances were played by Maroon 5 and John Mayer.