Carl Wernicke

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.

His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home on Pensacola Beach and watching sports, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union.

Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.


One thing about being retired is that it lets you step back and evaluate the work world with an unbiased view. Or, without skin in the game, maybe it’s an unreal view.

Anyway, one advantage I see in retirement is being able to step off the fast lane that technology has put working people on. Right now it’s a young person’s game, and will remain so until technology is so advanced that even old folks can quickly and easily learn to use it.

Back when I was writing a regular newspaper column, one of the real challenges was simply to come up with something to write about week after week. Many a would-be columnist started out strong, only to realize that perseverance counted as much as inspiration. It might rank only behind the need to develop a skin thick enough to protect you from your critics.

A recent report by the Studer Institute in the News Journal, and a subsequent viewpoint by former News Journal executive editor Randy Hammer, again spotlighted the serious poverty issue that persists in Escambia County.


The recent renewed discussion over use of monies coming from the BP oil spill settlement for environmental improvements raised some good points.  One of the points of discussion is over whether we should pursue specific, if perhaps isolated, projects with these monies, or change the focus to be more goal-oriented. That makes sense to me if the main goal is on improving water quality. When all is said and done, that is the underpinning of the Northwest Florida economy.

I talked recently about wondering, as a younger man, about my parents’ regular habit of reading the obituary page in the newspaper. As I came to learn, that was where they found more and more of their friends, as well as the well-known names from the business, political and society circles that shaped the Pensacola of their generation.

But in reading the page recently, it reminded me that no matter whether you know the names or not, the obits, as we called them in the newspaper business, provide a unique reflection of ourselves.


Those of you living in manicured neighborhoods, especially among the emerald green bio-deserts we call lawns, might not have noticed. But the fall wildflower season is upon us.

Out in the country, unkempt roadsides and fallow fields are bursting with a mad profusion of color.

One of the enduring strengths of Pensacola is that it has a remarkable cultural arts infrastructure for a city its size. From the many art galleries to the museum of art,  the Little Theatre and the Opera, Pensacola showcases high quality shows and performances you might not expect to find, often showcased in the beautifully restored Saenger Theatre.

But the city’s primary cultural arts asset has to be the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, which recently opened its 90th season. That’s a remarkable run in a city featuring a downtown that has been left for dead more than once.

I remember years ago wondering why my parents always seemed to be reading the obituaries in the newspaper. Over time I figured it out. As they aged, they found more and more of their friends and acquaintances there, as well as the well-known names of the movers and shakers who had helped form Pensacola during their working lives.


The great scientist E.O. Wilson, who grew up and developed his love for nature in South Alabama and Northwest Florida, has a new book coming out. In it he proposes setting aside half the planet in human-free zones devoted to nature. He believes these natural spaces would give declining wildlife populations room to recover, and halt the ongoing extinction of thousands of species.

I hate it when people say things like, everyone says … but everyone is saying how hot it is this summer. I thought maybe because I’m closing in on the senior discount at the movies, everyone I know is also getting old, and that accounts for it. But even younger people are complaining, so it must really be hot.

Or maybe it’s the humidity. That’s my latest theory. It’s not hotter, it’s just more humid than normal. I’ll get back to you on that if I ever do any actual research on the topic.

Over the years, especially when I was living on Pensacola Beach, I was an advocate of the staycation.  That is, when you live in a place that people spend thousands of dollars to visit, you might as well act like a tourist yourself, but for less money, since you are already here and have a place to stay.


Pensacola prides itself on its long history, but it has been hard to translate that into real interest from visitors. Our local history has always taken a backseat, in terms of an active tourism draw, to places like the beach, Fort Pickens or to the Naval aviation museum, which is of course history, but not so much local history.


Throughout my 30-year career at the Pensacola News Journal, a recurring theme of our coverage was poverty and its impact on education. Statistics clearly show that high rates of poverty are reflected by poor performance in schools, and Escambia County has been a prime example.

One of the more enduring themes about education in Escambia is how openly people talked about taking jobs there, but buying a home in Santa Rosa County because they believed the schools were better.


The outstanding performance this past weekend by the robotics team 
from the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition certainly comes as 
no surprise to anyone who has followed the institute's work. The team 
finished second overall in the international DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Robotics Challenge, 
and first among all teams using the Atlas robot, built by a company 
recently purchased by Google.