A tribute set up in the Southern Baptist Convention’s press room at the Music City Center in Nashville honors the late AP religion writer Rachel Zoll.
By Roger Alford
NASHVILLE – In a heartwarming show of respect, the Southern Baptist Convention printed a media badge for longtime journalist Rachel Zoll who died last month after a three-year battle with glioblastoma, an incurable brain cancer.
A tough but fair-minded journalist, Zoll, 55, had endeared herself to the religious institutions she covered for 17 years as a religion writer for The Associated Press.
A tribute displayed her photo in an oval frame, along with the media badge, inside the press room at Nashville’s Music City Center where the Southern Baptist Convention is holding its annual meeting.
“Rachel Zoll was an absolute gem of a person, and she is deeply missed by so many,” said Jon Wilke, media relations director for the SBC’s Executive Committee, who arranged the tribute. “I wanted to create a memorial to honor her life and her work. She most likely would’ve been here asking tough questions all the while being one of the kindest people.”
In an AP article about Zoll on May 7, the day she died, co-workers described her as a “universally beloved colleague.”
“She was also one of the best reporters, on any beat,” said Brian Carovillano, AP’s managing editor, speaking on the day of her death. “She had a knack for finding the story or angle that no one else considered but is packed with insight and surprises.”
“Most importantly,” he added, “she was always the best kind of colleague, always available for help or consultation. … She always had time for everyone.”
During her career, she regularly wrote about issues at play within the Southern Baptist Convention, covered two papal transitions, and the clergy sex scandal within the Catholic Church.
Zoll has been repeatedly honored by the Religion News Association, which recognized her in 2018 for her career achievements and for her collegiality.
“She was one of the great personalities in the profession –- or really anywhere,” said RNA contest chairman Jeff Diamant at the awards banquet. “This makes it really hard to get mad at Rachel Zoll, even when she beats you on a story in your hometown.”