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Person 2 Person: Peggy Fletcher Stack

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Person 2 Person: Peggy Fletcher Stack (Photo courtesy The Salt Lake Tribune)

(KUTV) Peggy Fletcher Stack is the religion writer for the The Salt Lake Tribune.

"It's the best beat on the paper," she said.

Stack fell into the job when she was hired in 1991.

"I have no degree in journalism, no newspaper experience before the Tribune," she said.

She had edited Sunstone magazine in Utah and worked in New York with various faiths before Tribune editor Jay Shelledy.

He wanted to start a faith section for the paper.

So she told him, "'I speak Mormon, and I speak all these other faiths, so I could probably help you,'" she recalled.

Her plan was to help with the faith section until the end of the summer and then find a replacement.

"But then I was kind of hooked," she said.

As you can imagine, many of her articles get strong emotional responses from readers.

"I get by far the most hate mail of anyone at the paper," she said.

But the comments don't hurt her feelings.

"I feel like I get about equal number of pro- and anti-Mormon that I must be doing it ok. I try to balance that out," she said.

Religion has always been something that Stack has thought about.

She was raised in a commuter town in New Jersey where she interacted with many people of various faiths.

"I thought it was pretty diverse," she said.

Stack would often have conversations about why someone chose--or didn't choose--a particular religion.

"I didn't intend to do anything with it," she said of her fascination with religion. "I thought I would be a social worker."

After covering the topic for over two decades, Stack has learned a lot about spirituality and faith.

In fact, she wrote a children's book about various religions, called "A World of Faith."

"Every faith group believes in some kind of deity or other sphere, and what that other sphere expects of mortals is that they love each other," she said.

Stack has also met some well-known religious figures throughout her career.

"I have a natural, spiritual feeling for lots of people of faith that I meet," she said.

She met the Dalai Lama twice, which she called a "special" experience.

"I--believe it or not--was not expecting to like him," she said. "Because he's so popular, and I tend to be suspicious of popular people."

But, Stack admits she was "dazzled" by him.

"The Dalai Lama is a person of profound faith and insight, but also just joy-filled. He laughed a lot," she recalled.

She also noticed that joy from leaders like Desmond Tutu and LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley.

After those experiences, she developed an "over-arching theory" about some people of faith.

"People of deep spirituality have the best sense of humor," she said.

Since she covers religion in Utah, she often covers issues dealing with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the LGBTQ community.

"I don't know if it's a challenge," she said of the topic. "It's just always wanting to get it right, to tell stories, and to write with some kind of empathy for every side of the debate."

Stack also admits that it's hard to write any of her stories.

"I'm not a natural-born writer. I'm a good listener and I love reporting. Hate writing," she said.

Stack hopes to interview new LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson and his wife.

She also dreams to one day meet Pope Francis.

"I'm sort of dubious that I will actually ever get to do that," she said.

You never know what may happen in her career--which she plans on continuing for years to come.

"You know, I've been doing this 26 years, so I'm looking forward to another decade or so," she said.

Web exclusives:

Peggy Fletcher Stack often gets strong reactions to her articles

Peggy Fletcher Stack wants to report fair stories on faith

Peggy Fletcher Stack talks about covering religion in Utah


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