BYU alum Sarah Jane Weaver becomes first female editor-in-chief at Deseret News

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Sarah Jane Weaver gives a devotional to students at BYU-Hawaii in Laie, Hawaii. Weaver, BYU alum, worked as editor of Church News for seven years and was appointed editor of Deseret News on Tuesday, May 21. (@BYU—Hawaii via YouTube)

It is possible that when Sarah Jane Weaver was at BYU, she was unaware that she would make history in the news industry and in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What she did know was that she wanted to make her ancestors proud, and BYU was the beginning of that journey for her.

Sarah Weaver worked as the editor-in-chief for The Daily Universe when she was at BYU in the 1990s.

“I started my journey at Brigham Young University during the height of print newspapers,” she said.

Her career began before the internet and before email, Weaver said. The Daily Universe would print a publication every day, Monday through Friday, she said.

“Those were great days at BYU,” Weaver said. “We would print out a paper every night and take it to a printing press around 1 a.m.”

The newspapers would then be taken to racks in the campus buildings and students would read them, she explained.

Weaver said her training at BYU was for a print-first newspaper strategy.

“The industry has changed enormously,” Weaver said.

During her time at BYU, Weaver worked for the Deseret News Washington Bureau as part of the Washington Seminar internship, she explained. She said the employees would share a “mammoth computer” and hope to get an hour to put their stories in.

Weaver was most grateful for her time at the Washington Seminar because she met her husband there, she said. Her husband was also a BYU student.

“We are grateful everyday for what that institution did for our lives and how it blessed our family and the foundation that it gave us,” Weaver said.

This photo of Weaver at a computer was taken in 1994, shortly after she graduated from BYU, she explained. She said she and her husband are grateful for the foundation BYU provided for them and their family. (Courtesy of Sarah Weaver)

Though the news industry has completely shifted from print to a digital-first system, the principles of journalism have not changed, Weaver said.

These values were taught to her at BYU and she said they have played a significant role in her career.

“It’s about accuracy and trust, building an audience, being ethical and actually prioritizing people in the way that we tell stories.”

Weaver said about the principles of journalism which still remain true today.

After graduating BYU, Weaver went on to Stanford University to complete her graduate studies. Her career later took her to the Arizona Republic for a year before she went to work for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden.

Weaver worked specifically for Church News for 29 years, she said, which is a joint publication of Deseret News and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In May of 2017, she was made editor of Church News.

“Writing about something that I love so dearly has been one of the greatest blessings of my life,” Weaver said about writing stories related to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The following year she led a number of changes to increase their reach, such as translation into the Spanish and Portuguese languages and starting to use different types of media. Church News now shares their stories through podcast, video and social media platforms, Weaver said.

Weaver is the first female editor of Deseret News since it was founded 174 years ago. She, as a mother of three daughters, talked about what this position means to her as a woman.

“I also want my daughters to know that the opportunities in the world for them are as big as they can dream.”

Weaver said about being the first female editor of Deseret News.

Weaver has received many great opportunities in her career as a woman, she said. She expressed her thanks to the Church for the opportunities presented to her.

“I am the first woman editor of Deseret News, but I am not the first editor of Deseret News in my family line,” she said.

Weaver’s maiden name is Cannon. She is related to the Cannons who were past editors of the Deseret News, including George Q. Cannon, who was editor twice in the late 1800s and is a previous member of the First Presidency of the Church.

“There’s this legacy of Cannons in media and, wow, I hope to make them proud,” Weaver said.

Weaver continued to talk more about what she hopes to do in this position.

“The first thing that I want to do is expand the product offerings of Deseret News,” she said.

Her plan is to lean into podcasting with Deseret News and jump in with video. Additionally, Weaver wants to continue expanding the “journalistic rigor” and the legacy of content, she said.

“I want the Deseret News to be a household name. And I want it to be a trusted voice in the United States.”

Weaver said.

Another facet of her life is her membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I have felt very validated as a woman, I’ve had opportunities for leadership and to share my voice,” Weaver said about the Church.

On Tuesday, May 21, Sheri Dew, executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation, announced Weaver’s new position in a meeting with staff members.

“She has … shown a great ability to create successful media products,” Dew said of Weaver. “We’re excited to have her expertise focused on the Deseret News.”

Chief executive officer of DMC, Jeff Simpson, commented on Weaver’s abilities.

“Sarah has a keen journalistic instinct and a tireless work ethic. She has the leadership ability to mobilize a team to do great work,” he said.

Dew said Weaver understands what it takes to be “a strong journalist in today’s fractured media landscape.”

There are many new challenges journalists face in today’s world, Weaver explained.

Weaver talks about the challenges in journalism being an opportunity to bring light to the world.

Other challenges in the industry, Weaver commented, are how people spend their time. People spend less time in the news and more in places like Disney Plus and TikTok, she added.

Additionally, journalists compete against apathy, she said.

“We need to figure out how to help a society that is saturated, and it’s sort of worn out, by news,” Weaver said. Newspapers need to figure out how to be a light, she shared.

Through her many experiences worldwide, Weaver has learned over and over again what is most important in journalism.

“Sharing truth in the way that can lift and strengthen one person, that’s what journalism is about to me,” she said.

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