The Accidental Reporter

By Hugo Olaiz

Hugo-retBecoming the news editor for Sunstone was a felicitous accident. Like many other BYU students, I had first discovered the magazine on the shelves of the Harold B. Lee Library, but it wasn’t until I moved away from Utah that I began to read it seriously.

In the 1990s, Mormons in the Bay Area had (and still have) a progressive enclave. My two bishops at the Berkeley University Ward, Sam Holmes and Nick Sorensen, were Sunstone and Dialogue readers; the Berkeley Institute of Religion had both collections in its library; and the Institute director, Brent Colette, believed there was room for everyone in the gospel. In 1997, I moved back to Utah and attended my first Sunstone symposium. It was love at first session. In late 2001, when Dan Wotherspoon asked me to become the news editor, I immediately said yes.

Writing Sunstone news (plus some cornucopia, concepts for cartoons, and assorted articles) for all these years has been incredibly rewarding. Unlike a daily newspaper, where a reporter covers only today’s news, Sunstone’s bimonthly news section allowed me the luxury of distance and perspective, which are crucial when trying to make sense of complicated or controversial stories. Following Mormon news day by day, I could see how stories evolved, morphed, and often even changed their frame of reference. When the time would come to write my version for the next issue of Sunstone, weeks had typically passed since the story had first broken, and by then it was easier to capture the story’s essence.

When I began to write news in 2001, the Mormon world was changing dramatically—in great part, because of the emergence of the Internet. The kinds of news and discussions that 40 years ago one could only have found in the pages of Sunstone are now posted every day of the year in hundreds of blogs, Facebook groups, and podcasts. Although I celebrate this flourishing, I continue to be partial to Sunstone, because I know that while blogs and podcasts rise and fall, Sunstone will always be there, ready on the bookshelves, showcasing a universe of issues, and always pointing to the essence.

Where are researchers going to go 30 years from now as they look for sources about Romney’s race for the U.S. presidency, the LDS Church’s efforts at reshaping its public image, or the various controversies around lds history, lgbt issues, and Mormon women? My prediction is that they will find mostly random fragments on the Internet—a handful of pieces surviving after the jigsaw puzzle has disappeared. It’s in Sunstone where they will encounter overarching summaries, references to primary sources, and what I hope they will deem well-balanced perspectives.

So here’s to 40 more years of Sunstone; to the scores of subscribers, donors, and volunteers who have kept it alive and vibrant through the years; to the scores of curious students who will, just like me, serendipitously encounter the magazine in the cavernous bowels of a large library; and to the many more scores of Mormon folks of all stripes who are finding us online, in regional symposiums, and during our annual pilgrimage to Salt Lake City.