As one of Florida’s largest companies and the electricity provider to more than half the state, Florida Power & Light Company is accustomed to media scrutiny of nearly every aspect of our business.
We respect and value the role that a free press plays in our democracy, and we understand that our business is routinely newsworthy as it impacts many millions of Floridians. Equally, when we disagree with something that is written about us, we appreciate that newspapers across our state provide an opportunity for opposing viewpoints to be expressed in their ‘Opinion’ sections.
Unfortunately, that opportunity to express an opposing viewpoint appears to no longer include the Miami Herald.
On Dec. 20, the Miami Herald wrote a story on proposed legislation to alter Florida’s rooftop solar rules. The story was authored by the paper’s Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas, a reporter with a historically anti-utility bias, and included questionable sourcing from a secretive group linked to the multi-billion-dollar international rooftop solar industry. Not to mention the story was done in partnership with a brand new, self-described investigative journalism non-profit that “investigates the corporate interests holding back climate action.”
Unsurprisingly, we found the story to be incredibly one-sided and misleading on an issue of real importance to 18 million Floridians. So naturally, we broke out our keyboards to prepare a response that would provide additional perspective to the readers of the Herald. And that is when something extraordinary happened.
The Miami Herald refused to publish our full opinion editorial, choosing instead to run a heavily edited version – in their Dec. 26 print edition, buried in their ‘Letters to the Editor’ section. Only after we inquired why the edited version had yet to appear online did the paper post the same copy to their website, more than 24 hours after it originally published in print. Typically, news outlets publish to their websites first and follow with copy in their print editions.
Why did the Herald take such unusual steps to impede FPL’s opposing voice in their publication? Why did they run a heavily edited version with our name on it, without our consent, and fail to inform readers that it had been significantly edited? Only the paper can answer that, but the backstory provides some clues, including what we believe was plainly an attempt by the Herald to protect its reporter, a wish to diminish FPL’s response and a complete lack of leadership at one of Florida’s largest newspapers.
As you can see in the timeline posted here, it certainly wasn’t from a lack of FPL trying to encourage the Miami Herald leadership to do the right thing. Over the course of five days following our submission to the Herald, we sent five separate correspondences to the paper’s editorial board and executive leadership and followed that up with three separate phone calls, two of which were ultimately returned.
When we did finally connect with Nancy Ancrum, the editorial page editor, we were told that our submission was edited because it included “unsubstantiated” claims disparaging a member of their editorial staff. She told us that if we had proof of our claims, we would need to “take it up with the newsroom,” which in this case was executive editor Monica Richardson or senior editor for state and municipal government, Dave Wilson.
Shortly thereafter, we did connect with Dave Wilson. We explained to Mr. Wilson that we had recently learned about troubling conduct by Mary Ellen Klas during a committee meeting on redistricting at the State House. To confirm that conduct, on Dec. 22 we filed a Public Records Request with the Florida Senate for all public communications that may have included Ms. Klas. The Senate granted our request and provided FPL with a number of documents.
Two of the documents, shown here, indicate clear, substantiated evidence of bias and troubling conduct by Ms. Klas, who we feel should be adhering to the journalistic principle of impartiality. These documents include a Nov. 22 letter to executive editor Monica Richardson, which shows clearly that Miami Herald’s leadership did, in fact, have full knowledge of their reporter’s conduct prior to our OpEd submission.
Unfortunately, Mr. Wilson disagreed with our assessment and refused to make a decision about our OpEd. He told us we would need to speak with Monica Richardson, who was “out of the country and unavailable.” We also suggested that we would speak with Nancy Meyers, the publisher of the Herald, but soon learned that she was in the process of departing the company and unlikely to be of any assistance. Equally, Rick Hirsch, the managing editor of the newspaper, was days away from retirement.
Ultimately, not one single employee at the Miami Herald would make a decision about whether or not to print FPL’s full OpEd. And to date, Monica Richardson, the defacto head of the paper, has not reached out to FPL to discuss our repeated inquiries to consider this matter.
The Miami Herald’s lack of journalistic balance and determination to keep opposing viewpoints out of its publication is why FPL has taken our own extraordinary step to expose its actions.
You can judge for yourself why they may have taken the action that they did.
We encourage readers to look at the unprecedented letter that Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson sent to Miami Herald executive editor Monica Richardson, where he says, “it appears Mary Ellen Klas has crossed the line of reporting and informing to advocating for organizations that will bring litigation against the Legislature. Such collusion is not only inappropriate as a reporter, it puts Senators in a position to violate the policies and procedures I have set up in order to keep the process free from improper influence.”
You can judge for yourself if these materials substantiate a bias by Mary Ellen Klas.
And finally, we encourage readers to ask why the Miami Herald might have wanted to sweep FPL’s opposing voice ‘under the rug’ and away from its readers’ eyes. Was it to protect its Tallahassee bureau chief? To silence credible counterpoints by FPL?
Readers will have to judge this for themselves, but at least now they have the proper information to do so.
To date, FPL has received no follow-up from the Miami Herald, more than two weeks after our original submission.
Dec. 20 (6:00 a.m.) Miami Herald publishes story on proposed legislation to alter Florida’s rooftop solar rules.
Dec. 23 (9:15 a.m.) FPL sends opinion editorial submission to Miami Herald, by email to three editors, for consideration.
Dec. 23 (3:17 p.m.) After receiving no reply to our email earlier in the day, FPL calls Nancy Ancrum, editorial page editor, and leaves a voicemail.
Dec. 24 (12:35 p.m.) After receiving no reply to either our email or phone call, FPL resends email to three editors asking for a response.
Dec. 24 (12:45 p.m.) Nancy Ancrum replies to say, “Yes, received. I will let you know when it runs.” [Note: the story ran in print with no notification to FPL.]
Dec. 26 Miami Herald prints a heavily edited version of FPL’s submission, buried in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section of the newspaper
Dec. 27 (10:21 a.m.) FPL again emails the Miami Herald editors to ask if they intend to publish the company’s response.
Dec. 27 (10:35 a.m.) Nancy Ancrum replies to inform FPL that they printed the response in their Sunday, Dec. 26 edition. She does not mention that it had been heavily edited.
Dec. 27 (11:36 a.m.) FPL attempts to phone Nancy Ancrum, but it goes to voicemail. A follow-up email asks her to contact us to discuss the submission.
Dec. 27 (12:09 p.m.) Nancy Ancrum calls FPL and informs the company that its submission ran in edited form in the print edition, because it included ‘unsubstantiated’ claims disparaging a member of their editorial staff. She suggests that FPL “take it up with the newsroom.”
Dec. 27 (1:27 p.m.) FPL sends Nancy Meyer (publisher), Monica Richardson (executive editor) and Dave Wilson (senior editor for state and municipal government) an email asking for a phone call to discuss why FPL’s submission was denied.
Dec. 27 (2:21 p.m.) Dave Wilson calls FPL to discuss the company’s submission, refusing to make a decision to print it and suggesting that only Monica Richardson can make that decision, but she is “out of the country and unavailable.”