In honor of Fernandina Observer’s 10 Year Anniversary – Reflections and appreciation

By Susan Hardee Sreger
May 11, 2022


Ten years ago, the Fernandina Observer began its plan to offer online news in a one-newspaper town. We were the first news source to go online in Nassau County. Our launch began with a “We will be different!’ announcement which listed the hopes for our new venture. Plans included a podcast, but we soon realized the best use of our time was on the written word.

All we wanted was to be a reliable source of information, to tell our readers what happened at commission and board meetings, and to post opinions, not based on misinformation but on facts. Judging from the tremendous growth in our readership, that is what the community wanted as well.

We love to tell the story of our beginnings. Marketing for the Fernandina Observer was nonexistent, mainly done by word of mouth. About three weeks after our opening announcement, Tropical Storm Beryl, an intense tropical storm packing up to 70 mph winds, passed through our community, forcing some residents to evacuate. We covered the story live, posted articles and photos, and issued damage reports. To expand our reach, we posted on Facebook, and the community loved  “news while it is still news!” It was during that coverage we realized our future was very bright.

Volunteer reporters:  Gerry Clare, roving reporter; Deb Powers, staff reporter; Karen Thompson, features reporter;  Adam Kaufman, legal analyst; Anne H. Oman, reporter-al-large; Evelyn C. McDonald, arts & culture reporter; Cindy Jackson, reporter; and Pat Foster-Turley, Wildways.

Over the last four days, we recognized our volunteer reporters (pictured above) by taking “A Look Back” to thank them individually.  If you haven’t had the chance, we hope you view their excellent articles and personally thank them for their efforts.

Suanne Thamm, volunteer reporter-news analyst and a city watcher for 28 years, deserves tremendous credit for bringing the Fernandina Observer where we are today. She is a great writer, and most importantly, she is well respected in our community and, most importantly, she gets the story right. Jacksonville news stations, after reading Suanne’s city commission reports, occasionally began their news stories with, “According to the Fernandina Observer . . .”  Now that was thrilling to hear and a real tribute to Suanne’s skills.

Suanne was with us from the beginning. Although our titles were different, Suanne was an equal partner in this venture. We are grateful for her hours of dedication to the Fernandina Observer and the many gifts she has given to our community. Thank you, Suanne, for all you have done.

We extend appreciation to our local advertisers: Amelia Adventures, Amelia Plantation Chapel, Cafe Karibo, Courson & Stam, Citizens for a Better Nassau, East Coast Home Watch,  Elizabeth Wilkes Photography, Oxley Heard Funeral Directors, Premier Beach Rentals, Steephill Designs Maple Products, Steve Leimberg Fine Art Photography,  and Wallace Pierson Travel,   Our advertisers helped us cover our operating costs throughout the year. All of them are outstanding small business owners, and we wish them continued success.

We appreciated the photographs sent to us by area photographers and visitors. Over photos 500 were shared with our readers. A few photographers who deserve special recognition were mentioned in our recent “Look Back Amelia Island revealed . . .”  series. They deserve our thanks. The photographs, with their beautiful images, were a calming distraction on many a lazy Sunday.

Other individuals have donated their time and talents.  . Larry Myers served as our moderator for the City Commission Candidate Forums for ten years. Not only did he moderate the forum, but he also helped craft questions for the candidates. Working with Larry was always a pleasure. Benjamin Morrison, very involved with 8 Flags Playscapes, helped design such projects as Pirate’s Playground, Egans Creek, and Simmons Road Park. He informed our readers of the work in progress and even dispelled rumors along the way. Chris Whalen spent a great deal of time photographing the construction of the new Fernandina Beach Airport Terminal and shared those photos with us. And lastly, Alan Prescott, a former golf professional, came forward to rally support around our golf course, a community asset in need of attention. Thank you all for your help and  support.

Doug Newton, my former business partner, challenged me to move forward with this enterprise, and he shared in the initial start-up costs.  Over the years, Doug and I took great pleasure in watching this venture grow. Although Doug moved to South Carolina in 2019, I know he continued to cheer us on from the sidelines.  Thanks for your help, Doug.

The Fernandina Observer will continue.  Suanne Thamm and I will step down from our duties on May 12, but the Observer will live on!

We are thrilled to welcome Mike Phillips as the new editor of the Observer. Mike brings a wealth of experience in the news business, and he loves his new hometown. Best wishes to Mike, as he begins his new assignment bringing news and information to our community.

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Doug Mowery
Doug Mowery(@douglasm)
2 years ago

“All we wanted was to be a reliable source of information, to tell our readers what happened at commission and board meetings, and to post opinions, not based on misinformation but on facts. Judging from the tremendous growth in our readership, that is what the community wanted as well.”

Susan… are dead on. The FBCC is truly where the “rubber meets the road”. You easily (thanks Suanne!) had the most concise coverage of their meetings. In the past I had to ask people who to vote for (i.e. my spouse). Now I have a pretty good idea of the 5 players thanks to the FO. I hope this detailed coverage of Tuesday meetings will continue. Elections matter…..and in FB, they matter a lot.

Thanks to both of you (and Adam on legal issues) for the education. Take care…..

Judy rivenbark
Judy rivenbark (@guest_65032)
2 years ago

Susan you did a wonderful thing! I have enjoyed news of Fernandina from afar! Thank you and your staff!

DAVID LOTT(@dave-l)
2 years ago

Susan, you and your team created a valuable source of information for the community and it will continue on. Thanks for your and Suanne’s initial vision and ongoing commitment.

Madena Chandler
Madena Chandler (@guest_65037)
2 years ago

I have enjoyed and appreciated reading the news you provided all these years. While we no longer live there, we loved Fernandina Beach for almost 35 years. Being able to keep up with what’s happening has been a blessing. Thank you, and best of luck to Mr. Phillips.

Tom Duffy
Tom Duffy (@guest_65038)
2 years ago

Susan, thanks to you and Doug and the rest of the staff for presenting an unbiased report of the goings on in the city. Really, really sorry to see you go!
When I was chair of the HDC, Suanne was my “ right hand man” I can’t tell how much value she added to my term. When assigned a task I had no qualms that , through her due diligence, her report would be true and correct! Thank you all for making F/O a daily must read!!

Edward Mark Joseph Szynaka
Edward Mark Joseph Szynaka (@guest_65040)
2 years ago

Congratulations on your 10 years of reporting. I read your post early every morning. And, thank you for featuring Ms. Turley. To the next ten years.

Stan Cottle
Stan Cottle (@guest_65041)
2 years ago

Susan, congrats on reaching this milestone. Many thanks to you and Suanne for your innovative spirit and all the hard work to make it a reality.

Benjamin Morrison
Benjamin Morrison (@guest_65042)
2 years ago

Thank you for all you have done for our community! It has been an invaluable resource to provide accurate information to our friends and neighbors in a world where that is sometimes difficult to do.

Trudie Richards
Trudie Richards (@guest_65045)
2 years ago

Susan, I think great thanks is owed to you as well, who worked behind the scenes for the most part to make the Observer a success. Thank you for your diligence!