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.

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. What it does is give you a greater appreciation for where you live. That’s important, because living here day to day leads you to take for granted those things that visitors find fascinating,...

IHMC

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. The archaeology work done by the University of West Florida helped strengthen interest in local history, but it still seems to be more interesting to scholars than...

IHMC

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. My own opinion,...

IHMC

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.
My reaction to it is that IHMC is the most visible example we have...

Busy Being Retired

May 20, 2015

I’m only a few weeks into retirement, but people are already tired of hearing me say that I’m so busy I don’t know how I had time to work. But it’s true. For example, this week brought the highly anticipated arrival of the tomato hornworm. Left unattended, these voracious monsters can strip the leaves from a full-grown tomato plant practically overnight. Our main defense is to pick them off by hand and feed them to the chickens. This obviously takes time, which is hard to come by when you...

IHMC

In late April my wife and I went downtown for the ceremony honoring the courageous black Pensacolians who engaged in a sit-in to protest to segregation of department store lunch counters. Even though it was a rain-threatened Saturday afternoon, we were both disappointed in the turnout, both black and white. It underscored a comment I read from Sarah Jonas, the young UWF student whose research led to the event. She said, “These things didn’t happen all that long ago and yet I feel that many...

IHMC

Free food is a concept with almost universal appeal. Certainly over my career as a journalist, free food was one of the major perks driving news coverage. Given the choice, you’d much rather cover an event featuring free food than one without it. Even lousy free food was better than no food. As a veteran reporter told me at an event one day, the food might not be very good, but at least there’s plenty of it. This food fixation is brought on by the fact that this is one of my favorite times of...

IHMC

With the recent news cycle being dominated by coverage of the five-year anniversary of the BP oil spill, it pays to take a few minutes to reflect on it. While the fear of those early days of fouled water and stained beaches has faded, there’s one thing we should never forget: it could have been worse. A lot worse.
Basically, BP punched a hole in a pressurized underground balloon of oil and natural gas, which came spurting out when the plug – the well – sprang a leak. It was only at...

IHMC

I’ve always been told that the so-called Golden Years are, well, golden. But as I creep increasingly near the senior citizen classification, some of what I’m finding doesn’t seem like gold. It’s more like pot metal.
It’s bad enough that over the weekend I wandered all over the house looking for my sunglasses, only to find that they were on top of my head. Or that after several minutes of looking for my reading glasses, I found them hanging from the collar of my shirt, right in front of...

IHMC

Several years ago my wife and I visited Budapest during a trip to Europe. The city is one of the many crossroads of history that dot the European landscape. It is a history of constant strife, from pre-Roman to modern times, sweeping back and forth across the region as rival powers rose and fell, the one constant being the suffering inflicted on the people caught in the middle, simply trying to live their lives One of the worst conflicts to bruise Budapest was World War II, which left much of...

IHMC

While riding in the procession from the church to the cemetery last week for the funeral of J. Earle Bowden, I noticed what I have been told is a unique Pensacola tradition: cars all along the route stopping to honor the deceased. Now, I myself have stopped many times for funerals, but it has been a long time since I was part of the procession to the cemetery. I can tell you that from the inside, it is a very moving tribute. People didn’t just pull over to the side of the road, many of them...

IHMC

Much has been said in the last few days, by myself and others who worked with him, about J. Earle Bowden. The longtime editor of the Pensacola News Journal died Sunday, and is rightfully being remembered as a dominant figure of his time in Northwest Florida. At a certain point it becomes difficult to come up with new insights, as certain themes naturally recur in remembering someone as unique as Earle. I think what might come closest to summarizing Earle’s life and career is a simple fact: it...

IHMC

Roger Smith, who lectured recently at IHMC on his work rehabilitating injured birds of prey, made a comment during an interview with me that could not be more true. He said that to fully appreciate what is going on in nature, you have to understand it.
Over many years of reporting on environmental issues, that came home to me again and again. I first really got it when a local environmentalist got me to understand that you literally can miss the forest for the trees. What looks like a...

IHMC

When most people think of Florida, they don’t think in terms of change of seasons. It’s palm trees and summer all the time. But one of the many advantages to living in Northwest Florida is that we get winter as well as summer, but not too much of it. As the latest snowy blizzard blows through the northeast, it’s a comforting thought. I still remember as a child standing all bundled up in the cold and dark on Bloodworth Lane waiting for the school bus, and then returning home in the sunshine...

IHMC

I’ve talked before about the value of staying connected to what’s happening locally, something that grows in importance as traditional media suffer from shrinking budgets and staff. But staying connected isn’t just about local news media; it includes a wide variety of community organizations. One of my favorites is the Francis M. Weston Audubon Society . I consider myself a birdwatcher, but I’m strictly an amateur compared to serious birders. Still, my wife and I get a lot of enjoyment from...

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