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Witness commissioners name Hannigan as managing editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Joni B. Hannigan, a national correspondent for Baptist Press and high school journalism and English teacher, has been named managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, the official newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.

Upon the recommendation of the paper’s executive editor, James A. Smith Sr., the Florida Baptist Witness Commission unanimously elected Hannigan, 40, on Aug. 12.

“I’m grateful for the Lord’s provision of Joni to the staff of the Witness,” Smith said. “She is yet another sign of God’s blessing on us. I believe her addition will greatly enhance our mission to publish good news about God’s work.”

As managing editor, Hannigan will supervise and direct the editorial staff of the Witness and be responsible for day-to-day coordination of newswriting, editing and layout of the paper.

Hannigan began her career as a freelance writer under the direction of veteran Baptist journalist James C. Hefley. In addition to assisting Hefley at Hannibal Books, she studied journalism in his classes at Hannibal-LaGrange College, Hannibal, Mo., where he served as writer-in-residence.

She earned the bachelor’s of science in education degree, with an emphasis in English and journalism, from HLG in 1992 and received a master of education degree from Park University in Parkville, Mo., in 2000, completing additional studies in journalism.

“Joni Hannigan is a very capable newspaperwoman,” Hefley said. “She has great contacts with the secular press and gets along with people,” he added, characterizing her as a “dependable and fair reporter.”

Southern Baptist Texan news editor Tammi Ledbetter commented, “Southern Baptists are understandably suspicious of reporters, but when Joni Hannigan interviews a source, her quotes are accurate and in context. She gives journalism a good name.”

Hannigan has been a public high school educator since 1997, teaching at Henry County High School in McDonough, Ga., and earlier at Platte County High School near Kansas City, Mo., where she also served as public relations coordinator. Hannigan led students at both schools to produce award-winning publications. From 1992-96 she directed the Baptist Student Union at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.

A native of Southern California, Hannigan has wide experience in reporting about Southern Baptist life. She has covered Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings for various publications since 1987. In 1995 she became part of the official newsroom staff for SBC coverage, and in 2000 began writing a column appearing regularly in BP.

Hannigan said the combination of journalist/teacher has given her the opportunity to share real-life experiences her journalism students might not have received otherwise. In 2000 her students covered election results for BP, while a trip to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City provided her an opportunity to supervise a high school intern.

Through her contacts with the working press she has recruited judges and coordinated the Baptist Press Excellence in Journalism Contest, which has grown from the 451 entries received last year to nearly 700 this year.

“I believe strongly in the importance and the power of communication — especially in telling the good news about Jesus and his kingdom,” Hannigan said. “I am deeply honored by the opportunity to join the Witness staff in serving Florida Baptists and am most grateful for a living and loving God who has blessed me immeasurably throughout my life.”

Joni Story Hannigan and her husband John, who is retired from the Army Reserve, were married in 1980 while she was in United States Naval Intelligence and he was serving on active duty with the Army. The Hannigans have two children: Belinda, 20, a senior at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and John III, 19, who is beginning a year of volunteer work in Boston with Americorp’s CityYear program.

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