Rachel Zoll, national religion writer for The Associated Press, is impossible not to like.
That’s true even for her competitors, said Jeff Diamant, a former religion writer for The Star-Ledger in New Jersey.
“Her expertise on the beat is really something to behold, and when you get to know her, you see that she has one of the great personalities in the profession or really anywhere,” Diamant, contest chairman for the Religion News Association, said at the association’s annual awards banquet Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio.
“This makes it really hard to get mad at Rachel Zoll,” he added, “even when she beats you on a story in your hometown or when you're a source and she writes something you don't like because the story was fair.”
The RNA gave Zoll, who has terminal brain cancer, a Special Recognition Award, which AP deputy managing editor Sarah Nordgren accepted on her behalf.
In presenting the RNA award, Diamant noted that colleagues praised Zoll as a reporter, a writer, a colleague and a person — “the total package.”
It’s not the only honor she has received recently:
I also mentioned my own experience with Zoll on Twitter:
GetReligion’s own Richard Ostling is a retired religion writer for AP and Time magazine religion writer. Ostling received the RNA’s William A. Reed Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. Ostling noted that Zoll is recuperating after surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.
He shared these reflections on his time working at AP alongside Zoll:
Working day to day with Rachel Zoll the final years of my active career as AP's team of two religion writers was in many ways the highlight of my decades covering the beat, exceeded only by a number of exciting projects during the years at Time magazine. She was not only a delightful colleague but exemplifies the AP's traditional code of speed, accuracy, and -- most important -- fair-mindness and non-partisanhip that are so vitally important in covering religion for a multicultural public. The AP's role remains so central, and so universal, that it can easily be taken for granted, yet every print, broadcast, and Internet outlet has benefited from Rachel's contribution.
Thank you, Rachel Zoll. You have made all of us better.