In a Republican-run state, one might be surprised to find tens of thousands of dollars flowing to progressive, left-wing media sites.

In Alabama, it seems to be more of a norm than an exception.

As with mainstream media nationally, Alabama's media landscape trends left-leaning.

Until recent history, Alabama's legacy media outlets either openly or furtively advanced a liberal narrative and ideology.

However, the tradition continued when Alabama Political Reporter (APR), run by Bill and Susan Britt, arrived on the state political scene in 2011.

The front-page canvas is typically filled with the musings of Bill Britt and Alabama journalism’s benighted diaspora, Josh Moon. Their topics range but tend to focus on a single theme: conservatives are bad.

In a blood-red state that overwhelmingly voted in support of former President Donald Trump, a Republican governor and a Republican supermajority in the legislature, one might expect such a media entity to find scant financial support from state agencies financially enabled Republican politicians, but you’d be wrong.

Republican candidates have supplemented state money during election cycles from time to time. However, that has been less so in recent history, as the amount of money going to APR from various state agencies has shot up in recent months.

In fiscal year 2024 alone, which covers October 2023 to September 2024, state agencies have paid nearly $95,000 to APR for advertising. The Secretary of State’s office paid $12,700, the Department of Corrections (ADOC) paid $17,820, and the Department of Transportation paid $63,750 to APR thus far in the 2024 fiscal year.

Throw in another $3,000 from the State Port Authority, and the total approaches nearly $100,000.

This is a stark distinction from the previous year, in which state agencies barely paid $17,000 to APR in the 2023 fiscal year and just under $37,000 the year before and the two subsequent years.  

In 2023, the Secretary of State paid $7,500, and the Alabama Industrial Training Institute (AIDT) paid $9,645 in advertising dollars to APR.

In contrast, the Alabama Media Group (AMG), the umbrella for the state's largest news site, AL(dot)com, received just over $13,000 in the 2024 fiscal year, compared to the $192,000 state agencies paid AMG in the fiscal year 2023.

What else are these agencies getting from APR in return? Who knows.

In the case of the ADOC, APR has historically been hyper-critical of ADOC and its policies, often blasting out opinion pieces criticizing ADOC for lies, corruption, avarice and any number of perceived misbehaviors.

Nearly every news story about an Alabama execution before May 2024 mentioned either the ongoing Department of Justice lawsuit against ADOC, the state’s failed lethal injections, or any number of criticisms of ADOC.

However, after ADOC cut APR a check in May, the following story on the execution of Jamie Ray Mills lacked any discussion of the DOJ lawsuit and botched executions. It lacked any critical insight on ADOC or the state’s position on capital punishment, which spanned APR’s previous coverage. Instead, APR staff writers opined on the global landscape of capital punishment, giving gratuitous figures on the number of worldwide executions.

As for ALDOT, which is APR’s largest contributor by a significant margin, to say the coverage has been flowery is an understatement.

On June 12, 2023, ALDOT director John Cooper was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of harassment/intimidation after a neighbor claimed he threatened to shoot him over a land dispute. Cooper was also the subject of a lawsuit over a toll bridge in Baldwin County at that time.

SEE: ‘He threatened to shoot me’: Man who pressed charges against ALDOT director John Cooper details harassment claim

SEE ALSO: Owners of Orange Beach toll bridge sue ALDOT – Claim agency's director John Cooper attempting to destroy business

What was the extent of APR’s coverage? A 150-word story describing a property dispute over an easement. There was no mention of Cooper threatening to shoot the neighbor, and there were no follow-up stories after the shooting threats became widely known. Instead, eight minutes after the mild story of Cooper’s arrest was posted online, APR’s own Bill Britt published a glowing opinion piece praising Cooper.

In an op-ed headlined “Where will John Cooper go to get his reputation back?” Britt espouses nearly 1,000 words in a ham-handed apologetic that poses a theoretical question, “What if words spoken by the court and reported by the press are not proven true?”

While bizarrely juxtaposing Cooper’s arrest with the indictment of Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan, the entire piece can only be described as a sordid attempt to defend Cooper in his ongoing legal troubles while painting a nearly romantic picture of the man.

Additionally, APR gives ample coverage to any ALDOT projects without offering an iota of critical insight. And that pesky criminal case against Cooper? Crickets, other than the initial 150-word story that ran alongside a fluff piece for the embattled Cooper.

Even when discussing the recently passed crackdown on ballot harvesting, Britt gave a series of uncharacteristically mild opinion pieces, not once mentioning that the bill was backed by Secretary of State Wes Allen, whose office is another APR advertising benefactor.

Leaving aside any potential quid pro quo, APR has a history of being crass and vicious towards Republicans in the state.

In 2018, barely a week after Attorney General Steve Marshall’s wife tragically took her own life, Britt posted an opinion piece titled “No, Mr. Marshall, it’s you.” In the piece, Britt bashed Marshall for divulging his late wife’s struggles with mental illness, saying, “Marshall knew full well that taking the job as attorney general might endanger his marriage, but he did it anyway.” He would go on to not-so-subtly blame Marshall for taking the job as attorney general for negatively affecting his wife’s mental health.

“With earnest sensitivity, APR has approached reporting on Mrs. Marshall with the utmost concern for her dignity,” Britt wrote. “It is you, Mr. Attorney General, who shamed your wife and exposed her most intimate secrets, and it is you who bears the blame for opening her deepest wounds for the world to see.”

Leaving aside the appalling treatment of Marshall during his wife’s suicide, APR has frequently targeted Marshall with its ill-informed and more ill-written diatribes, usually criticizing him for advancing values held by the majority of Alabamians.

And let’s not forget about Alabama’s ranking U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn). If all you read was APR, you might develop the impression that Tuberville spent his free time wearing a Ushanka hat and doing shots of vodka with Vladamir Putin in the Kremlin while the pair plotted how to subvert American democracy.

The vitriolic screeds aimed at the senator are too numerous to count. But suffice to say that if Tuberville were to rescue a drowning puppy from a lake, APR would likely criticize him for having polluted the public waterways with his presence. For context, the last three opinion pieces on Tuberville from APR have the following titles: “Tommy Tuberville: A lying liar who lies,” “Tuberville’s defense of Trump aims to erode rule of law,” and “Tuberville twists D-Day’s legacy, attack Biden, echoes Kremlin talking points.”

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