The consulting firm Matrix LLC, on behalf of its clients including Alabama Power and Florida Power & Light, filled the void of a collapsing local newspaper industry across the Southeast to create an echo chamber of favorable coverage, NPR and Floodlight report. Between 2013 and 2020, six local media outlets (five of which are still running) received a minimum of $900,000 from Matrix, its clients, and associated entities (opaque shell companies are a signature of Matrix operations) via a complicated web of financial connections.

A lengthy investigation by NPR and Floodlight concluded that much of the coverage by many of the Matrix-supported outlets consistently favored the two utilities, which have long fought efforts to introduce more clean energy into their grids, and included positive coverage FP&L ally Sen. Rick Scott (previously the state’s governor), coverage of Alabama Power that mirrored press releases from the utility, and scathing attacks against a (now former) Alabama state utility commissioner, smearing him as a “radical environmentalist.”

The relationships highlight the dearth of reliable local reporting in the Southeast, and many parts of the country. “I’m not trying to pretend that I’m an angel or anything like that,” Florida Politics Publisher Peter Schorsch, who acknowledges his financial relationship with Matrix impacted his outlet’s coverage. There’s “no thumb on the scale,” Schorch insists. “But … man. If I go, there’s nothing left in this f***ing space. There’s like the Tampa Bay Times, the Miami Herald, and you’re down to nothing.” (NPR, Floodlight)