Jennie McKeon

Digital Content Producer/Reporter

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.

After graduating from University of West Florida in 2009 with a B.A. in Communication Arts/Journalism, she worked for print publications across Northwest Florida including InWeekly, The Destin Log and Northwest Florida Daily News. In 2016, she was named Features Writer of the Year by Gatehouse Media.

Born in Pennsylvania, she admits to being a "Yankee who drinks sweet tea." She dislikes cold weather and is happy to trade a white Christmas for 75-degree weather anytime.

Jennie is a proud volunteer of Gulf Coast Kid's House and Save our Kittens and Cats (SOCKS) in Fort Walton Beach. When she's not reading or listening to podcasts, she enjoys photography, 80s movies, re-watching "The Office" and looking at pictures of your cats.  

Ways to Connect

Destin Fishing Rodeo

Before Destin was a beach vacation mecca, it was a small fishing village.

In June 1948, a group of businessmen started the Destin Fishing Rodeo in hopes of bringing tourists to the area. And it worked.

This year marks 70 years of the Destin Fishing Rodeo, a month-long event that brings thousands of anglers to the fishing docks to get their catches weighed in hopes of making it on the leaderboard.

Jennie McKeon, WUWF Public Media / WUWF

The Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter has one of the highest euthanasia rates in the state of Florida.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, says resident Brandi Winkleman.

Winkleman is the founder of A Hope for Santa Rosa County, a nonprofit geared toward lowering the euthanasia rate at the shelter. Her ultimate goal is to open a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in the county.

“We’re dumping them at the shelter thinking ‘Oh they’ll be fine. They’ll get adopted out,’” she said. “We can make different choices. We’re better than this.”

Jennie McKeon, WUWF Public Media

Dozens gathered in Plaza Ferdinand Thursday evening to remember the deaths of two African American men who were hanged by mob in that same public square.

There are eight known lynchings that occurred in Escambia County between 1875 and 1910, according to historians. A group of local citizens is working with the Equal Justice Initiative to properly memorialize the men. At Thursday’s ceremony, citizens and family members collected soil from the sites to start a historically accurate documentation of the deaths.

Scott Richard | Flickr

The Northwest Florida State College Gay-Straight Alliance is holding its inaugural Gay Ball this Saturday, an event that is centered around love, acceptance — and fun.

Claudia Lebrun, president of the NWFSC Gay-Straight Alliance, said she was inspired by the annual celebration ball held by Gay Grassroots Northwest Florida each June during their Pensacola Pride week. So, she decided to host a similar event in Niceville.

“I want this to be a day where you can express yourself and be proud of who you are,” Lebrun said. “Don’t be afraid of your differences.”

Spring Run Media

A new art gallery opened in South Walton this summer — but you’ll need to be SCUBA certified to visit it in person.

The Underwater Museum of Art is the brainchild of the Cultural Arts Alliance (CAA) and the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) featuring seven unique, artificial reefs designed by artists. The reefs were deployed in late June and are ready for viewing.

Library of Congress

There are 49 designated National Heritage Areas scattered across the U.S.

And Northwest Florida could be No. 50. 

A National Heritage Area (NHA) is a place where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes, according to the National Park Service.  Designating an NHA is not an easy process. It takes years of research, feasibility studies, public input — not to mention an act of Congress.

Tonia Shatzel

Walton County Commissioners are no closer to a customary use ordinance, but they do have dozens of public comments.

Before Saturday’s anticipated public hearing to restore public access on Walton County beaches began, the county’s attorney Sidney Noyes announced that owners of 13 different parcels of property — mostly condominium units — did not receive notice through certified mail, which is required under House Bill 631. 

"We thought we had a mechanism to capture all of these condominium units and unfortunately these 13 slipped through," Noyes said.

City of Destin

Destin’s Harbor District is a hotspot for entertainment, but finding a parking spot is a bit of a headache.

The city has four public parking lots, but not enough spaces to accommodate the growing number of visitors each year.  There are approximately 300 spots available between the city’s three public parking lots. The Destin Library parking lot is also available after hours.

“It’s a challenge to say the least,” said Mayor Gary Jarvis.

The city’s parking woes are not a new issue. Jarvis said he believes it stems from not enough planning and rapid growth.

Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge

The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge has already had a busy year when it comes to baby animals.

Now, they’ve added nearly 80 baby squirrels to the mix.

“We’ve already had an unusually busy year,” said Executive Director Stormy Andersen. “At one point, we had 150 different baby species at the facility. The baby squirrels started last week with 56. It’s crazy.”

Tonia Shatzel

On the morning of July 14, longtime Walton County, Florida resident Daniel Uhlfelder decided to go to the beach.

Instead of rest and relaxation, he found himself in the middle of a confusing debate about public versus private property.

In a video posted to YouTube, you see Uhlfelder holding his beach chair and umbrella as he talks to a security guard at Vizcaya Beach who warns him of trespassing on the private beach.

“Can you draw a line for me where trespassing is?” Uhlfelder asked the security guard. “I want to know where to put my stuff.”

U.S. Air Force

Tech. Sgt. John Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House Wednesday afternoon. 

“We’re gathered together this afternoon to pay tribute to a fallen warrior — a great warrior — Tech. Sgt. John Chapman; and to award him our nation’s highest and most revered military honor,” said President Donald Trump at the ceremony.

Chapman is the 19th airmen to receive the Medal of Honor and the first Special Tactics airman to receive the award.

Taylor Engineering

The deployment of more than 500 artificial reef structures began last week in Navarre Beach as part of a project funded by Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). 

“(A) mile out from shore we are placing a little over 500 artificial reef structures, made out of concrete and steel,” explained Mike Sandler of the Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary. “This is taking it to the next level, our next phase.” 

Northwest Florida Daily News

Customary Use is a big issue in the state of Florida.

It’s the belief that beaches have been public property as long as humans have used them, which is why counties across Florida have passed customary use ordinances allowing access to both public access points and in front of beachfront homes. 

In April 2018, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 631. The bill, which received bipartisan support, authorizes a person with “superior right to possession or real property” and “prohibits local government from enacting or enforcing ordinance or rule based on customary use.”