Longtime Missouri newspaper editor dies

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 | 2:26 p.m. CDT

CAPE GIRARDEAU — Joni Adams Bliss, longtime managing editor of the Southeast Missourian newspaper in Cape Girardeau, has died after a battle with ovarian cancer.

Bliss, 51, died Tuesday at Southeast Missouri Hospital. Her funeral will be at 10 a.m. Friday at Grace United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau.

Bliss was the first woman to serve as managing editor of the Southeast Missourian. She left the paper in 2000 to work in the marketing department for Southeast Missouri Hospital.

Bliss graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1978 and began her career at the old Cape Girardeau Bulletin-Journal. She moved to the Southeast Missourian when the newspapers merged in 1986 and became managing editor in 1988.

Current and former colleagues remembered Bliss as a competitive journalist who recognized early the potential of the Internet as a source of news. She also played a key role in promoting the annual “Random Acts of Kindness Week” in Cape Girardeau, pushing the community to reach out to family members, co-workers and strangers.

“Joni was to me an unending source of energy,” Southeast Missourian editor Joe Sullivan said. “She energized the people around her.”

Bliss put together the first version of the Southeast Missourian’s online edition. She conducted classes in computer usage that were wildly popular, Sullivan said, and even sold advertising on the site. “Joni put us a couple of years ahead,” he said.

She took that Web knowledge to the hospital. Sally Owen of the hospital’s marketing and communications department noted that when Bliss joined the staff, its Web site was getting 3,000 page views a month. Now, it gets about a half million page views a month.

Even as Bliss fought the disease she reached out to the community, promoting awareness of the signs of ovarian cancer and the potential for it to be mistaken for more common disorders.

“You’ve got to listen to your body,” Bliss said in October at an ovarian cancer awareness program. “You’ve got to be your own medical advocate.”

Bliss was married to Mark Bliss in 1980. Survivors also include two daughters and her parents.

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