Friday Five: Rachel Zoll, Heidi Cruz, 'The Exorcist,' Tennessee politicos, Christ at the Checkpoint

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Last month, we congratulated Rachel Zoll, national religion writer for The Associated Press, when she received a special recognition award from the Religion News Association.

A tweet embedded with that post hinted at another big honor for Zoll, and now, there is official news of that prize.

AP announced this week that Zoll is one of the winners of the 2018 Oliver S. Gramling Awards, the global news service’s highest internal honor.

From the AP press release:

The pre-eminent voice on religion for more than a decade, Zoll has led AP’s reporting on the subject, cultivating relationships with sources across all faiths, writing remarkable stories and mentoring fellow journalists to better understand the importance of covering religion. Her reporting spans from a series on Christian missionaries in Africa to a 2016 election-year piece on how conservative Christians felt under siege to a story about two churches in Georgia -- one black, one white -- trying to bridge the divide. Zoll’s sourcing led to AP being first to confirm on-the-record the death of Rev. Billy Graham.

Zoll, who has terminal brain cancer, is on medical leave. Big congrats to her on the Gramling Award!

Now, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: The Atlantic’s profile of Heidi Cruz, wife of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, is interesting and revealing, with various religion-related details. It’s worth a read.

But for some of the faith questions that The Atlantic misses — and even some of the answers — also be sure to check out my GetReligion colleague Julia Duin’s post from earlier this week. It’s definitely worth a read, too.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Big surprise here (not) — Terry Mattingly has the No. 1 most-clicked post once again.

This time, it’s his commentary titled “Was there a big Catholic ghost in 'The Exorcist'? Don't ask the Los Angeles Times about that.”

Check it out.

3. Guilt folder fodder (and more): Our own tmatt had a post earlier this week about a New York Times story on Tennessee’s U.S. Senate race. Short version: The Times piece was haunted by holy ghosts.

On the flip side, don’t miss today’s front-page story by The Tennessean’s Holly Meyer on that same state’s gubernatorial race. Meyer, the paper’s religion writers, delves into the public faith of Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Karl Dean.

Meyer even visits the home churches of both candidates and offers mini-profiles of them within the story, which is excellent.

4. Shameless plug: I’ll make this plug really shameless and urge you to read my story from my 466-mile journey from Nashville, Tenn., to Panama City, Fla., with a Christian disaster relief truck driver.

But I’ll also encourage you to read the story that my wife, Tamie, a former religion editor for The Oklahoman, wrote for Religion News Service on the recent Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Oklahoma City. I’m particularly grateful to her for taking on this complex, controversial subject matter when I left town abruptly to cover the hurricane story in Florida.

5. Final thought: No, the above tweet has nothing to do with religion.

But it’s never a bad idea to share a cute dog video, right?

Happy Friday, everybody!

Enjoy the weekend!

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