Being a Watchdog of FirstEnergy Corp

Van Tassel, Debbie
June 2004
Nieman Reports;Summer2004, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p27
The article explains the preparedness of The Plain Dealer newspaper to lead the nation's investigative reporting after the massive electricity blackout in the summer of 2003. Ohioans long knew FirstEnergy Corp. as the utility supplying electricity to the northern part of their state and as a near-monopoly that also owned power generation and distribution assets in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The rest of the country became acquainted with the company after August 14, 2003, when a series of power failures knocked electricity to eight states and parts of Canada. Within days, FirstEnergy came under the glare of national media and government investigators from the U.S. and Canada for its probable role in the blackout. Reporters at The Plain Dealer were deep into telling this story as part of their investigative reporting on this local power company since the late 1990s. These reporting efforts intensified after 2000. From both Cleveland and Columbus, Plain Dealer reporters wrote that state regulators agreed to let FirstEnergy pass on $8.7 billion in transition charges to consumers in exchange for freezing rates. A collaborative investigation by reporters in Washington D.C. and Cleveland, Ohio led to stories being published about a rust hole and cracks in the reactor lid's components at FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and loose oversight by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


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