News Journal email pledges to “battle with any city council opposition” to Studer project

News Journal email pledges to “battle with any city council opposition” to Studer project
By Deborah Nelson
August 3, 2015


An email dated September 10 of last year, from former Pensacola News Journal publisher Terry Horne to Quint Studer, pledges to “battle with any City Council opposition” to an unnamed project.  Horne left the News Journal the same month for a job as Publisher of the Salem Statesman Journal in Oregon.

The email, which Panhandle Politico obtained from Pensacola City Council representative Sherri Myers, is posted here:  Terry Horne e-mail

Myers says she’s concerned the News Journal is biased towards big-dollar advertisers instead of providing impartial news coverage.

Contemporaneous news reports suggest Horne’s support refers to an “economic development” tax-exemption for Studer’s project to develop the former Pensacola News Journal building site into high-density apartments and other facilities.

Horne’s email was a response to an email from Studer containing a link to the website The link no longer works.

Studer forwarded Horne’s response to Mayor’s Office Chief Operating Officer Tamara Fountain about a half hour later.

The full text of Horne’s response reads:

“Thanks, Quint. PNJ’s editorial board is 100 percent behind this project. We will back the mayor and battle with any city council opposition in getting this project done. It is important to downtown Pensacola – more people means more commerce and more businesses and more energy and better options.”

Panhandle Politico asked News Journal Editor Lisa Nellessen-Lara the following questions:

Is it still News Journal practice to advocate for individuals, businesses and other private interests on government policy issues?

If so, was that a factor behind PNJ’s recent editorial on “transparency” in the Mayor’s office?

If so, which entities are PNJ currently supporting through editorial means?

Nellessen-Lara responded:

“It is extremely important to note that our former publisher was referring to our editorial board and the opinions on our opinion page. Those opinions do not influence the work of our journalists who strive to provide an accurate report of the actions of our private and public sector community leaders.

We have consistently advocated on our Opinion page for the best interests of Pensacola and its residents and will continue to support – on our Opinion page – projects and ideas that are in their best interests. Our editorial regarding transparency was just that – a call for our government leaders to be transparent in all of their work, rather than focusing on bits and pieces that would otherwise paint an inaccurate picture of what’s happening in our community.”

PNJ’s recent “transparency” editorial questions Fountain’s qualifications and appointed responsibilities. It follows on the heels of a News Journal regular news story reporting that former Public Information Officer Derek Cosson is now receiving contract pay from the Mayor’s Office, and detailing the pay.  The “transparency” editorial also criticizes Cosson’s pay and qualifications.

The editorial appeared shortly after Studer broke off negotiations with the City of Pensacola for three Maritime Park parcel leases.

Studer took issue with a Mayor’s office press release that said the leases had “several issues which have yet to be resolved:

• Lease term — The parties need to agree on the length of the leases.
• Approval of uses — The uses proposed by the Studers are not detailed in the current leases. Any changes to property uses should be approved by the City rather than the CMPA.
• Timeline — The proposed leases give the Studers up to five years to begin construction.
• Parking — Mr. Studer previously indicated that he would seek “non-exclusive” parking spaces. However, the leases refer to these spaces as “reserved.” That language needs to be clear.
• Rent adjustments — The parties need to agree on a structure for periodic rent increases over the term of the lease.”

Meyers characterized the lease terms Studer was seeking as “egregious.”

PNJ’s reference to “transparency” appears to refer to a PNJ call for the Mayor to post “COO Fountain’s resume and work history for all citizens to see” and “Show us Cosson’s qualifications and skill set that makes his work so valuable to taxpayers.”

Fountain’s is the only resume in the City or County PNJ suggested be posted. Cosson is the only other area government contractor PNJ suggested be scrutinized.

A recent Panhandle Politico editorial questioned PNJ’s interest in Cosson’s salary, considering the many questionable taxpayer-sponsored “consultant” handouts and “nonprofit” contracts they’ve ignored through the years, despite in some cases being alerted by area residents.


  • Xochitl says:

    It is common knowledge that Quint Studer controls the Pensacola News Journal and has done so for over a decade. Contrary to Nellessen-Lara’s statements, the News Journal’s “hard news” stories push Studer’s agendas as much as their editorials. Hardly a week goes by without reading several pro-Studer articles in the News Journal, some of them silly beyond belief. We were recently treated to a story about a bulldozer that was going to start demolishing the old News Journal building “in about a week,” an excellent example of a story that is pre-reported before it actually happens.

    Part of the reason for these pro-Studer stories is that Studer employs an army of public relations people including several who were fired by the News Journal. These people have only one job and that is to feed the News Journal with press releases about Studer. The few journalist who remain employed at the PNJ probably wish that they too could land a cushy job at the Studer World Headquarters. This is why we will never read a discouraging word about Studer in the News Journal. Too many individuals there wish to follow in the footsteps of Randy Hammer, Reggie Dogan, and Shannon Nickinson.

    The unprofessional and unethical actions of the News Journal are not confined to what they print. It also encompasses what they DO NOT print. The News Journal practices selective journalism by refusing to run stories that do not suit their agenda. A prime example is the PNJ’s current attack on the Ashton Hayward administration. While this attack is certainly well deserved, it is also no longer news. Various outlets in Pensacola have been writing about the cronyism and incompetence at city hall for a long time. The News Journal has been ignoring the obvious for an equal amount of time. While unpaid bloggers have been battling to obtain hard-to-get facts from city hall, the News Journal has been content to only publish the easy-to-get press releases from Studer. Derek Cosson’s “consultant” contract with the city was reported two months ago by Maren DeWeese. The News Journal is only now reporting it as though they have made a “breakthrough” discovery.

    The email from the News Journal’s publisher to Quint Studer pledging to “battle with any City Council opposition” is indicative of the lack of journalistic ethics practiced by that newspaper. The News Journal’s lap-dog loyalty is rewarded when Studer throws them a bone in the form of a full page advertisement, a practice that he does often. Studer’s arrogance, however, got the better of him when he threatened the City Council by forwarding that email to them. At that point it became a public record. We got a nice glimpse of the “transparency” that exists between Quint Studer and the Pensacola News Journal.

  • Deborah says:

    Yup, that pretty much sums up my experience with PNJ. I’m having trouble understanding why they’re complaining about spoils system style hiring practices NOW after they refused to report on warnings about “strong mayor” authority over civil service hiring and firing during Charter hearings.

    Doesn’t look like Studern’s email was a threat. Mr. Studer forwarded it to Ms. Fountain a day before the City Council vote.

    Judging from a September 15 news story posted by Ms. Nickenson, it looks like the Mayor’s office was on board with the project. Perhaps somebody was expecting objections from City Council, due to the fact that “economic development” exemptions are supposed to be awarded to industry. Housing and retail are generally not considered “industry.” Ms. Nickenson was interested enough in that issue to write a separate article, September 10, titled “How are EDATEs evaluated?” The worksheet for this particular project is no longer linked to that story.

    An excerpt from Ms. Nickenson’s September 15 article archived on the Studer Institute’s website titled “Redeveloping Pensacola’s urban core” says:

    “The City of Pensacola and Mayor Ashton Hayward’s office said the project hits many marks that match their goals for development in the city. It touches everything from increasing residential density to adding parking and commercial space in the city. Tamara Fountain, the city’s chief operations officer, noted that the owners downgraded the zoning for the site voluntarily from manufacturing and industrial uses to commercial and residential uses.“It will never be industrial again,” Fountain said. “That’s important to us because it aligns beautifully with our goals for our downtown area.“The other thing I thought that was important is that they were going to do environmental cleanup on the site. Those are two real plusses in my book.”

    The article notes that City Council approved the tax exemption on September 11.

    The Studer/Horne email was dated September 10. Approval apparently entailed a special ordinance waiving normal project eligibility requirements. Because, again, housing is not industry.

  • Tamara Fountain says:


    The Office of the Mayor supported the PNJ project. I personally support the PNJ project. It accomplished the very important task of curing blight on the eastern boundary of the DIB district.

    Again, the email that was released and discussed from the former PNJ Editor to Mr. Studer was obtained through a public record request from Myers. Councilwoman Myers makes regular requests for emails and documents which is absolutely her right under the Florida Sunshine Law.

    Councilwoman Myers mentioned the email in her posts to the PNJ during their coverage of the proposed CMPA leases from Studer for parcels 3, 6, and 9. Again, the coverage from the PNJ Is out there
    for all to evaluate for themselves.


  • Xochitl says:

    The issue isn’t whether or not you personally support Studer’s apartment building. The issues are (1.) whether or not the taxpayers of Pensacola should be deprived of taxes that are due to them, (2.) whether or not Studer should be getting special tax exemptions that have not been given to any other “developers”, and (3.) whether or not the City of Pensacola should be engaged in activities that violate state law. Our city government ignored all of the real issues, possible because of the Studer/PNJ threat. An example of that threat coming to fruition is going on as we post these comments.

    For your information, there is no “blight” on the eastern boundary of the DIB district, although I am sure that is one of the excuses made to justify Studer’s tax break. Please research the cost of real estate in that area compared to the values in other parts of the city.

  • Deborah says:

    The 22 problems the Mayor’s Office had with the recent lease offers were not available when PNJ published last week’s rants. So how exactly did they know negotiations were mishandled when they couldn’t have been privy to any specific details?

    Since their editorials contained no analysis of the leases themselves, which WERE available on the City’s website, it looks like they weren’t even interested in examining background information that WAS available. Of course, there was that bizarre editorial about the website’s “transparency” tab. The one that reads like a Cabernet-soaked 3 a.m. blog posting and, like a drunken troll-fest, overlooks the…you know…actual leases sitting in front of their noses in favor of spiteful rhetoric about people’s salaries.

    Unfortunately, PNJ never provided any specific details on how those employees they were attacking had failed to perform, either. So, if there was some point to that editorial other than pettiness, as PNJ claims (via four increasingly-defensive editorials in one week), it’s lost on me.

    Since PNJ insists their attacks on two, single Mayor’s Office employees (whose shortcomings they still haven’t identified) weren’t personal, I’m looking forward to what will surely be a long series of PNJ exposes of taxpayer-subsidized “economic development” salaries, government “consultant” contracts and “nonprofit” grant handouts & salary inflation; along with a running tally of the many, many jobs that must surely be overflowing from such generous public compensation.

  • Xochitl says:

    Thanks, Deborah, for finally making the most important point of this whole episode. If the News Journal was interested in printing the “news” it would have listed the 22 revisions that were requested by the city. To the best of my knowledge, the News Journal has never printed those requested revisions. If the revisions were petty or impossible to meet, I could understand Studer storming out of the negotiations. But from what I know the revisions were minor and easy to accommodate.

    The reason it has taken nine months for Studer to negotiate for the three parcels is because he has been totally wishy-washy about what he would build on them. I don’t believe that he has ever had a use for the land. He just wants to control the property around “his” stadium and prevent anyone else from getting the parcels. Everything that he has proposed for the parcels is just plain silly. Does anyone believe that a “sports museum” located on the second floor of one building is going to benefit anyone? He currently has a six-story office building with two vacant floors. All of the uses that he has proposed could be accommodated in his present space.

  • Tamara Fountain says:


    The attorneys for the City and Studer met to discuss the leases.

    The attorney for the City prepared a memo with a detailed list of items discussed in the negotiations. It was given to Council last week. I am not working with City any longer so I can not speak to posting it. But, it should be available through a public records request.


  • Mark Clabaugh says:

    Bottom line is this, if Mayor Hayward rubber stamped the leases not one bad story would have ever seen print. The fact that he crossed up with their largest advertiser and one whom took a an albatross of a property off their hands… well let’s just say “they did battle with him”

  • Xochitl says:

    In Sunday’s edition of the News Journal, dated August 23, Quint Studer repays the News Journal for “going to battle” with the Hayward Administration by placing a full-page “fluff” ad in the first section. This quid pro quo relationship goes on and on as the News Journal delves deeper into yellow journalism.

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