Michael Danna, director of public relations for the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation and host of the organization’s long-running agricultural television program “This Week in Louisiana Agriculture” died Friday, March 6, 2015, in Baton Rouge. He was 54.
Mike is survived by his loving wife Rene’e Hafford Danna of Port Allen; two children, Chase Michael Danna and Taylor Lynn Danna, both of St. Francisville; his mother, Amelia Danna of Baker; one sister, Tammy Danna of Zachary; his “Nannie,” aunt Rose Marie Danna of Baker and two step sons, Nicholas LaCour of Port Allen and Dillon Couvillon of Astoria, NY. He is preceded in death by his father, Nicky Danna of Baker and his maternal and paternal grandparents, Nicholas and Lelia Soulier of Rougon and Tony and Katie Danna of Baker.
Although he never smoked, Mike was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in June of 2012, followed by a leukemia diagnosis in May 2014. Danna continued to work through much of his illness, traveling to Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama in early 2014 to cover the LSU AgCenter’s AgLeadership Development Program’s international tour there. In January of 2015 Mike and the TWILA Team of reporters kicked off the TV program’s new season by broadcasting from the San Diego Zoo. San Diego was the site of the most recent annual meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Born May 26, 1960, Mike was raised in Baker and was a 1978 graduate of Baker High. During his college years he wrote for his hometown newspaper, “The Observer,” as well as the LSU student newspaper, “The Daily Reveille.” He also free-lanced for “The Advocate.”
In 1983 he graduated from LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication and was hired by Gannett as a governmental reporter and political writer for “The News-Star-World” in Monroe. In June 1985 he left the newspaper to become the editor of “The Louisiana Farm Bureau News,” the official publication of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation in Baton Rouge.
It was there Mike was introduced to the organization’s long-running TV program “This Week in Louisiana Agriculture,” or TWILA as it was known, created by Regnal Wallace. Mike would report for the show for the next 12 years, after which he was named PR director for the Farm Bureau and anchor of TWILA following Wallace’s retirement in 1997.
During Mike’s tenure the TWILA Team of reporters would cover agricultural news from 15 countries on four continents and broadcast or report farm news stories from 27 U.S. states. TWILA is watched each week by more than 400,000 viewers on 19 affiliate stations across Louisiana. It is seen across the nation via satellite on the farm news network “RFD-TV” in Nashville.
Over his career Mike and the TWILA Team would garner six Telly Awards for excellence in television reporting. Mike was particularly proud of the October 2011 show produced over 10 days from Turkey, and of TWILA’s coverage of the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on Louisiana’s farmers and ranchers in 2005. In 2010 Mike’s report, “Katrina: Five Years Later,” won him a Telly Award for best news reporting by an independent television program.
In addition to his television reporting, Mike was a contributing writer to numerous news and farm publications, including The Advocate, Mid-South Farmer and Progressive Farmer magazines. In 2001 the Baton Rouge Advertising Federation named Mike “Communications Manager of the Year.” In 2008, he was named “Marketer of the Year” by the Baton Rouge chapter of Sales and Marketing Executives International. In 2011, the Public Relations Association of Louisiana named Danna “Communicator of the Year.” Mike will be inducted into the LSU Manship School of Mass Communications Hall of Fame this fall. Mike is a 2004 graduate of the LSU AgCenter’s “Agricultural Leadership Development Program.”
Mike and the entire Danna family would like to thank Dr. Gerald Miletello and the physicians and staff of the Hematology/Oncology Clinic for their love, care and compassion over the last two-and-a-half years. Thanks also to the physicians and staff of the Pennington Cancer Center.
Family and friends will gather for a memorial service in Mike’s honor, Saturday, March 14, 2015 from 8:00 - 11:00 AM. Eulogy will begin at 11:00 AM at Baker Funeral Home, 6401 Groom Road in Baker. In lieu of flowers, the Danna family has asked that contributions be made in his name to benefit a scholarship to be established. Donations can be made online at www.lsufoundation.org or via check payable to LSU Foundation, in memory of Mike Danna in the notation line and mailed to LSU Foundation, 3838 West Lakeshore Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70808 or to Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, www.cancerservices.org.