Sarah Jane Weaver was recently named the editor of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-owned Deseret News, becoming the first female editor in the 174-year-old newspaper's history.

622. Deseret News’ first female editor won’t be its last

Sarah Jane Weaver might be the first woman named editor of the Deseret News since the paper was founded in Utah in 1850, but she is far from the only woman who has worked there in a position of authority and influence and she believes she won’t be the last. 

“In the 1980s, a woman named DeAnn Evans was the first (woman) managing editor of the Deseret News. What a great woman who laid a foundation for me. She educated a whole generation of journalists, which is also dear to my heart. I spent much of my career in the Church News, a weekly publication that goes out worldwide to the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s also a product of the Deseret News. The first Church News editor was Gerry Avant; she started at Deseret News the year I was born. I’m the first woman editor, but I’ve been surrounded by really competent women for a very long time.” 

The Deseret News is owned by the church, but is independent of church leadership and officials have no prior review of any material published by the newsroom before publication, Weaver says. 

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders care a lot about the Constitution and the First Amendment and the right to religious freedom and the right to free speech,” she says. “They care a lot about the right to gather in the public square, which means you can bring your whole self to the public square, whether you’re a person of faith or a person of no faith. We care about human dignity. Utah has a very high rate of upward mobility. Our strong journalistic values give a voice to the voiceless and help lift all people. When people say how or why does the church own a newspaper, the church cares about the free flow of information.” 

After graduating from Brigham Young University, Weaver had an internship with the Deseret News bureau in Washington, D.C., before taking a job with the Arizona Republic. Part of her time there coincided with a record-breakingly hot summer, wherein she was tasked with writing stories about the weather on a regular basis. 

“This was my first jump into full-time journalism, on the streets of Arizona trying to make sense of the heat,” Weaver says. But things changed the day she was assigned to cover the accidental shooting deaths of two young boys in separate incidents. 

“In pursuit of the story, I met with some of their family in the lobby of the ICU in the local hospital. I found my way into some very sacred experiences. I saw that family as they were in the room giving their son’s organs for donation and was allowed in, in another hospital room, as another family had to turn off life support for their young son. Suddenly everything changes. You realize that journalism is a profession of trust. We are only as good as people are willing to share their stories. We are only as good as people are willing to step forward and let us into their most sacred moments. We can’t move forward if we don’t have people who trust us.” 

The Deseret News, which bears the original name of the Utah region before it became a state, is very focused on earning the trust of readers and being a reliable source of unbiased news, especially heading into a contentious election season.

“We have a society where people are saturated, where they feel like it’s too much for them emotionally to read the news. They don’t know what’s true or not. If a media company is going to succeed, their audience has to know who they are, what they stand for and that they can trust them,” Weaver says. “Without that, it’s a pretty scary time.” 

Sarah Jane Weaver was recently named the editor of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-owned Deseret News, becoming the first female editor in the 174-year-old newspaper’s history.

Allison Taylor-Levine

625. Community collaboration key to evolving local journalism

Allison Taylor Levine, CEO of Local Journalism Initiative, discusses how LJI’s Delaware Journalism Collaborative, which has brought more than 25 partners throughout the state together to report on polarization and possible solutions, strengthens local journalism in Delaware and our democracy.

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