Iowa pastor and blogger, Dave Miller, claimed in a rancorous blog he directed toward the personal credibility of veteran, award-winning journalist, Joni Hannigan, that Baptist bloggers like himself and those at SBC Voices constitute the real Baptist news agency of Southern Baptist Convention. "We are the true 'Baptist Press,'" he claimed, "exposing what needs to be exposed, discussing what needs to be discussed, and keeping people informed about what is really going on." Miller's comrade in online arms, JD Hall, mirrors similar sentiments about the significance of their self-praised blogging craft: "In actually [sic], blogs matter. And bloggers (who are journalists in the most primitive sense – at least as much as Joni Hannigan can be considered one at the online website, Christian Examiner) matter" (link; italics original).
Is this true? Are bloggers Southern Baptists' true news outlet exposing and discussing only what "needs to be" exposed and discussed, keeping Southern Baptists informed about what's "really going on"?
Well, if Miller is correct, it's hard to imagine how Baptist bloggers could be trusted to bring us poor, ignorant masses anything edifying to the church or glorifying to our Lord.
Note Miller's catalog of concessions he made in his piece questioning Hannigan's professional journalism. According to Miller, Baptist bloggers are not only "divisive" and "bullies," we continue to engage in "harassment" and perform "despicable things." Well, now. If we bloggers are all this as Miller explicitly concedes in his obviously barbed-wire criticism of Joni Hannigan, what is so wrong about Hannigan's article suggesting Southern Baptist bloggers "bullied" a leader to disinvite Ben Carson? Miller seems perfectly comfortable in conceding the point that Baptist bloggers are prone not only to "bully" people, but also to carry on in a "divisive" way, "harassing" others and performing "despicable" acts. But if Miller believes this, what in heaven's name is he chastising Hannigan for? Is it because she's a woman she must remain silent? Is it because Miller gets to choose who is actually "bullied" and who is not? After all, this isn't the first time Miller thinks he gets to choose who is a bully and who is not. For Miller, Ronnie Floyd apparently plays (or least played) the role of a bully, while David Platt obviously did not.
I mean, why is it Miller can boldly claim Baptist bloggers are prone to bully people--and can even name specific persons who bully people (i.e. Dr. Floyd)--but when someone like Joni Hannigan writes an article describing a pastor victimized by bullying—a victim of what Miller himself believes Baptist bloggers are prone to do—that Miller blows a literary fuse and spews vindictive insults against the character and professional life of a seasoned, well-rounded Southern Baptist journalist? What's up with that?
And, please understand: it's hardly disputable that both Dave Miller and JD Hall mercilessly butchered Joni Hannigan's Christian character and professional accomplishments.
Miller's piece opens with what can only be called a disingenuous dissing of who Joni Hannigan is: "someone named Joni B Hannigan" wrote a piece in 'something called the "Christian Examiner."' Miller later in the thread claimed "I'd never heard of her... She's a writer from Florida, but I have no idea beyond that." How Miller's stated ignorance about Hannigan squares with his earlier claim to being the "real Baptist Press" and therefore, "exposing what needs to be exposed, discussing what needs to be discussed, and keeping people informed about what is really going on" escapes my personal reasoning powers. Consider: I found in a single google search on Joni B. Hannigan a host of links describing her remarkable credentials and extended vita that position her as one of Southern Baptists' most respected journalists. But as representing Southern Baptists' "real Baptist Press" Miller can't even do a single web search to give the reader the truth about who Hannigan is. So much for "keeping the people informed."
In April 2015, Hannigan received not only First Place in the Baptist Communicator's Association 2015 Wilmer C. Fields Awards Competition with a literary project on illegal immigrant children in immediate need, she also won First Place in the News Writing Division for a single article in excess of a thousand words. The article profiled the work of the Southern Baptist of Texas Disaster Relief Ministry at the Texas border in Brownsville, Texas. Indeed Ms. Hannigan won a total of four awards for her excellence in professional journalism at the annual Baptist Communicator's 2015 Association Meeting.
In addition, Hannigan has taught as adjunct professor in communications and journalism for at least two universities: University of North Florida and California Baptist University. Hannigan served for many years as national correspondent for Baptist Press, and for almost 12 years, she served the Florida Baptist Witness as Managing Editor. Upon leaving the Florida paper last year and pursuing further journalistic opportunities, the Witness had this to say about Hannigan's work: "References to Hannigan's thousands of articles have appeared online and in print newspapers, journals, books, documentaries, blogs and magazines across the globe, and some of her articles have been translated into other languages." And Miller has the swollen self-aggrandizement to propose that he, JD Hall, and SBC Voices stand on level literary ground with this Cuban American woman?
The truth is, one could go on and on about who Joni Hannigan is, what she's done, and continues to do through her tireless writing online and in print. Yet, for all this, Miller and Hall treat her as if she is nothing more than a kooky female blogger ignorant of Baptist life, lacking journalistic standards, and absent moral integrity. Talk about vicious irony! Miller, SBC Voices, and Hall piled on layer after layer of the very type of pressure-tactics (i.e. bullying) Hannigan was reporting about all the while defending themselves against the so-called trumped-up charge they claimed Hannigan made against them. Am I the only one who sees the Emperor Has No Clothes?
Miller called for Hannigan to apologize. Why? She but told the story of a pastor who claims he was bullied by bloggers for a selection he made to the platform of the Pastor's Conference, a claim they hardly accept. But rather than exchange ideas, both men butchered a classy Christian lady who remains among Baptists' finest professional journalists.
Where is the shame?
Where is the outrage?
And, if I may, why did Bart Barber allow Dave Miller and his hacking crew to stomp Hannigan's reputation and character into the dirt without offering a single correction to their clear display of character assassination?
As I understand it, Barber is perfectly aware of who Hannigan is and remains familiar with her journalistic integrity and moral character. To stand by and watch her reputation get gassed and then torched by wilfully ignorant men who claim on one hand they have "no idea who she is" but turn around on the other and categorically claim "Bloggers are the real Baptist Press" that exposes what needs to be exposed, discusses what needs to be discussed, and keeps people informed about what is really going on comes across as frightening to me. Our moral backbone is slowly bleeding out of us. Soon nothing will remain but an empty hull.
Miller called for Hannigan to apologize. But we know, don't we Dr. Barber, who deserves the real apology?