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DisastersThe Most Essential Environmental Story Of The Week

The Most Essential Environmental Story Of The Week

The Most Essential Environmental Story Of The Week

Fossil Fuel Interests Corrupt Media

No, it’s not the Biden Administration’s successful push to impress tens of hundreds of USPS vehicles. It’s how Matrix LLC, a consultant within the southeast with significant investments within the energy sector, made massive payments to local media outlets to slant their coverage in favor of dirty power and exorbitant electricity rates. Consider Alabama Power, which

runs and owns a coal-fired power plant that’s the largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions in the US.

An evaluation by Floodlight and NPR of the three Alabama news sites with links to Matrix finds overwhelmingly positive coverage of Alabama Power. The review checked out articles on each site that contained the phrase “Alabama Power” and located that the overwhelming majority of pieces either were positive or appeared to mirror a news release by the utility.

In interviews, two former reporters on the Alabama Political Reporter recounted episodes by which articles about Alabama Power received intense and weird scrutiny from editors. In a single case, the story was never published. Its proprietor denies any such influence on the location.

Together, Alabama Power and Florida Power & Light keep the lights on for nearly 7.5 million businesses and households. Since consumers’ payments contribute to much of the 2 utilities’ profits, much of the cash that the businesses spend effectively derives from consumers’ bills.

Sometimes, the Alabama Political Reporter would simply run Matrix press releases as news stories.

It’s not only Alabama: unsurprisingly, journalism in Florida is shot through with corruption. The editor of the favored Florida Politics website blandly acknowledges pay-to-play in his coverage.

In an interview, Schorsch says he practices “combination journalism”: He says Florida Politics’ coverage will not be dictated by advertisers, however it often gives them favorable coverage. And, he says, sometimes he gives them more coverage.

But the purpose here is larger than simply one egregiously corrupt consultant and a number of other egregiously corrupt local newspapers, because the NPR story makes clear:

Matrix shrewdly took advantage of the near collapse of the local newspaper industry and a concurrent plunge in trust in media in propelling its clients’ interests.

“The reduction in only the scale of the press corps covering state government has created a vacuum that I believe tends to be filled by individuals who have agendas beyond serving the general public interest,” says former Miami Herald executive editor Tom Fiedler….

The general public bears the brunt of deep cuts in conventional newsroom staffs, Fiedler says, as those driving the news agenda at some newer outlets are sometimes “the special interests – in lots of cases, the monied interests.”

This can be a core environmental issue in the long run. There will likely be no political constituency for combatting and adapting to climate change unless people understand its impacts, and they’ll not understand its impacts unless they know from the news sources that they eat – that are overwhelmingly local – how climate change works and the way it affects their lives. It doesn’t matter if the Recent York Times puts more reporters on the COP summit. However the collapse of newsrooms means that folks won’t get that information.

You don’t must look far to see the carnage. Just this past week, the Windfall Journal laid off several editors and reporters, a part of the Gannett chain’s massive layoffs across the country.

It isn’t clear who or what could make up the difference. Quality news production is a public good with large positive externalities that can’t be easily monetized. It thus seems unlikely that the for-profit sector can provide it efficiently. I even have long advocated for universities to make up the gap, but universities are more concerned with rating and their very own amour propre to become involved in what’s seen because the grubby business of acquiring facts.

So now we wait for somebody or something to do what must be done. And wonder why people usually are not more concerned in regards to the melting of the planet.

Alabama Power, corruption, Matrix LLC, media, News Deserts, universities, utilities


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