Tribune religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack wins lifetime achievement award

“To this day,” a former editor says, “a good chunk of The Tribune’s legacy reputation is the work of Peggy Fletcher Stack.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Peggy Fletcher Stack interviews Gordon B. Hinckley, then president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1998. Stack has been awarded a lifetime achievement award from Religion News Association.

After writing thousands of stories, recording hundreds of podcasts, covering 62 straight Latter-day Saint General Conferences and earning dozens of journalism prizes, Peggy Fletcher Stack has amassed enough accomplishments to last a lifetime.

So it should have come as little surprise to The Salt Lake Tribune’s senior religion reporter that she has been selected as the recipient of the William A. Reed Lifetime Achievement Award from the Religion News Association.

But she was, and Stack’s response says a lot about her devotion to her job and the reason she won:

“I’m not done yet,” she said. “There are still so many stories I hope to tell.”

Stack’s career is telling in its own right.

She started at The Tribune 1991, brought on by then-Editor James E. “Jay” Shelledy to bolster the paper’s faith coverage.

New to newspapers but hardly to the world of religion — she had studied at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and led the Mormon magazine Sunstone — she quickly revolutionized independent religion reporting in Utah.

Stack became a “Tribune legend with a national reputation,” Shelledy, now a member of the nonprofit Tribune’s board of directors, told the Religion News Association (RNA), with “an expertise appreciated by readers and theological experts of all faiths.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Peggy Fletcher Stack asks a question of Russell M. Nelson at a news conference in the lobby of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City in 2018 after Nelson was named the 17th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Her stories have explored divisive doctrines and inclusive gatherings, emerging trends and groundbreaking shifts, religious eras and “Mormon moments.” She has interviewed Buddhist teachers and Latter-day Saint prophets, Catholic cardinals and Protestant pastors, Muslim imams and Jewish rabbis. But mostly Stack has focused on people — those who cherish faith, lack faith, question faith, even reject faith.

Her coverage has taken her all over the world — from Asia to Africa, South America to Europe, and U.S. locales stretching from Boston to the Bay Area. She wrote last year about her visits to the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and the Holy Land.

(Michael Stack | Special to The Tribune) Tribune religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack heals her feet in the salty Dead Sea in April 2022. She wrote multiple stories about her visit to the Holy Land.

“To this day,” Shelledy said, “a good chunk of The Tribune’s legacy reputation is the work of Peggy Fletcher Stack.”

Five times, Stack has won RNA’s prize as the nation’s top religion reporter among midsize newspapers, including last year for her 2021 stories about the #DezNat movement’s online army of self-appointed warriors defending The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the push and pull between conservative and progressive forces at Brigham Young University, and the evolving debate about Mormonism’s belief in a Heavenly Mother.

In 2018, she received the Josephine Zimmerman Pioneer in Journalism Award from the Utah chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

RNA’s lifetime achievement award goes to those who show exceptional long-term commitment and service to the group and the field of religion reporting. The tally of past honorees reads like a who’s who of star religion reporters, including Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times and The Washington Post; Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today and Religion News Service; and Richard Ostling of The Associated Press and Time magazine.

The award is named after William A. Reed, a trailblazing Black journalist. He was the first full-time African American reporter hired by The Tennessean in Nashville, became its religion editor in 1965 and served as RNA’s first African American president. He died in 1991, the year Stack joined The Tribune.

Stack, who will be honored at RNA’s 2023 conference March 16–18 in Bethesda, Md., has served on the organization’s committees and board. In 2012, she co-founded the International Association of Religion Journalists and is operating as the group’s executive director.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Peggy Fletcher Stack interviews Latter-day Saint missionaries in Soweto, South Africa, in 1998.

She also is the author of “A World of Faith,” a children’s book — freshly updated and expanded this year — that is designed to help youngsters understand the globe’s major religions.

“I love my beat so much,” Stack told RNA. “I wake up every day ready to report.”

That’s why she’ll be there that first weekend in April — computer on her desk, pen in hand, notebook at the ready — covering her 63rd consecutive General Conference.

After all, she still has stories to tell.

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake Tribune religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack talks about her career in 2017 at Salt Lake City's downtown library.