Religion Unplugged

90+ finalists were named for religion news awards. Why 1 stands out.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | Religion Unplugged

Editor’s note: Every Friday, “Weekend Plug-In” features analysis, insights and top headlines from the world of faith. Got feedback or ideas for this column? Email Bobby Ross Jr. at

The Religion News Association named nearly 100 finalists in 22 categories last week for its 2020 Awards for Religion Reporting Excellence.

Among the familiar names on the list: Religion Unplugged’s own Meagan Clark, Paul Glader and Elizabeth Vandenboom. And yes, I was honored to be included for my work with The Christian Chronicle.

But one finalist’s name stood out: Heidi Hall.

Hall, a former religion and education editor for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, was nominated posthumously. She died Sept. 25 last year from metastatic colorectal cancer. She was 49.

Her deeply personal final story was published the day after her passing.

“It’s the story of her life — of losing everything when she left the (Jehovah’s) Witnesses — and finding a new family of her own,” RNS editor-in-chief Bob Smietana noted at the time.

“Final edits were done by her hospice bed,” Smietana said after the RNA finalists were named. “I hope she is smiling somewhere.”

The winners will be announced this fall.

Read the full column.

This column appears in the online magazine Religion Unplugged.

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