Pioneer newspaper appoints new editor

Joe Cannon assumes post once filled by grandfathers

When Joe Cannon was living in Washington D.C., hardly a week passed that he and his family didn't keep up on the happenings of the Church via the Church News.

"(The Church News) gave us a connection to the Church — it was a lifeline back to the Church," he said.

That lifeline has become dramatically shorter in recent days. On Jan. 1, Joe Cannon became the editor of the Deseret Morning News, of which the Church News is a weekly supplement. He succeeds John Hughes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newsman who served as editor for 10 years before returning to BYU as a professor of communications at the beginning of this year.

Though not a journalist by training, Brother Cannon, 57, enjoys a lifelong connection to the newspaper industry. He became a student of Deseret News history (the paper changed its name to Deseret Morning News in 2003) by simply studying his own family story. Brother Cannon's great-grandfather, George Q. Cannon, was the paper's editor from 1867 to 1879 while serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. A generation later, Joe Cannon's grandfather and namesake, Joseph J. Cannon, held that same position at the Deseret News from 1931 to 1934. Meanwhile, Brother Cannon's grandmother, Ramona Wilcox Cannon, wrote a column for the Deseret News for over a quarter of a century. Now a Cannon again sits in the editor's chair.

Brother Cannon said he did not know his grandfathers/job predecessors, but added "it's like they've been reaching out over the generations. There have been few days, even before I got this job, that somehow I didn't feel influenced by that heritage."

He is quick to acknowledge that journalism is not a genetic trait. "My family history doesn't make me an editor." Indeed, he has earned his living in a wide variety of professions ranging from law, public service, politics, publishing and business. Still, the Deseret Morning News has been "omnipresent in my life."

Brother Cannon said his grandfathers witnessed watershed moments at the paper on their respective watches. The Deseret News became a daily newspaper when George Q. Cannon was editor, while the Church News began during Joseph J. Cannon's tenure.

"I hope I don't bring any shame to their names — especially Joseph J., since I'm actually named after him," Brother Cannon said.

Born in Salt Lake City to Adrian and Pauline Black Cannon, Brother Cannon spent most of his childhood living in Southern California. After high school, he accepted a mission call to Ireland. For six months he served on the Isle of Man, the Cannons' ancestral homeland. There he found a few distant cousins. Once while tracting, a woman told Elder Cannon he looked just like her vicar — a canon in the Church of England, Canon Cannon. Elder Cannon met the clergyman and, sure enough, "he could have fit in at any of our Cannon family reunions."

While at BYU, he met his future wife, Jan Barney. The Cannons are the parents of seven children — Brigham (Alexandra), Joshua (Anne), Paul (Sarah), Michael, Abigail, Catherine and Claire — and have two grandchildren, Andrew Quayle Cannon and Benjamin Wilcox Cannon. Daughter Abigail is serving a mission in England, extending the family's multi-generational tie to the British Isles.

Prior to becoming the paper's editor, Brother Cannon worked as an attorney, a senior government official in the Reagan administration, a businessman and as chairman of the Utah Republican Party. He has served on the board of the Deseret Morning News and was a member of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee that staged the 2002 Winter Games.

Brother Cannon's professional resume suggests a man perpetually managing a full plate. Yet there's been plenty of Church service. He presided over the Brigham Young University 6th Stake, taught gospel doctrine classes and served on high councils and as a ward mission leader. He and Sister Cannon now teach a youth Sunday School class in the Meadow Wood Ward, Provo Utah Edgemont Stake.

Finding the time to serve has been a blessing, he said. As a stake president, Brother Cannon never missed a ward conference, and few other meetings. "The truth is, the Lord figures out a way."

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