Meet Our Regional Representatives: Peggy Fletcher Stack

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The board of the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) has named Regional Representatives to encourage more regional collaboration among our members. This is the first of a series of profiles of these leading journalists …

Peggy Fletcher Stack. Salt Lake Tribune photo.

PEGGY FLETCHER STACK is our IARJ Regional Representative for the United States. Her profile at the Salt Lake Tribune describes her this way:

Hired in 1991 to cover Utah’s various faiths, particularly Mormonism, Peggy has talked forgiveness with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, nearly fainted waiting for the Dalai Lama, fasted with Muslims during Ramadan — and has reported on 50 consecutive semiannual LDS General Conferences.

Q&A with Peggy:
Q: Why Is Religion Reporting Important?

PEGGY ANSWERS: To me, it is the best journalism beat there is. It touches all the important topics—values, ethics, communities, rituals, philosophical underpinnings, politics, meaning. It has some of the most compelling narratives as well as the richest ironies and an extraordinary cast of characters.

Q: What is the main philosophy that guides you when you go out to cover stories about religion?

A: I want to make sure that my writing is respectful and fair to any faith. I may have a bias, but I work very hard not to let that show. I try to treat a tarot card reader or polygamist with the same dignity I would afford a Catholic archbishop or a Tibetan nun. There are scoundrels and saints in every tradition, so I try to begin every story with an open mind. Let people tell their experiences and fight the tendency to roll your eyes and not write down the “miraculous elements.” In this case, that often is the story.

Q: How can we, as a community of international journalists, improve reporting on religion?

A:  Given contemporary communication, events in one part of the world immediately reverberate across the globe. Having reliable colleagues in many countries helps us all to add context and depth to our reporting. We can produce joint reporting; we can increase our understanding of the way religions we know play out elsewhere.

Q: How do you think we can encourage news media to place more importance on religious coverage?

A: The best way is to point out how often the stories of the day touch on matters of faith and having an expert in those faiths provides more thorough, even-handed reporting. It is increasingly essential to have someone on the team who knows what the central faith issues are, rather than just send reporters with little knowledge to cover controversial topics.

Learn more about Peggy’s work …