Media companies may have laid off more than 2,100 journalists last week as they scale back in search of profits, but The Washington Post is splashing out on a $5.2 million Super Bowl ad starring Tom Hanks to teach Americans how important journalism is in the age of President Donald Trump.
The ad, USA Today reports, will “highlight the role of journalists around the world who gather news, oftentimes in the face of grave danger.” It will be narrated by A-list actor, director, and producer Tom Hanks, who has been an outspoken advocate for the media these last two years, even delivering a brand new, $1700 coffee machine to the “embattled” White House Press Corps.
“The commercial shows several slain and missing journalists affiliated with The Post and other publications, according to a description in Saturday’s newspaper,” USA Today reports.
“The commercial shows major news events from World War II to the present day and describes how journalists are gatherers of facts on the world stage,” USA Today continues, quoting a Washington Post story about its own 30-second spot. “[T]he ad ends with the paper’s logo and its slogan: ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness.'”
The Post gleefully announced the ad in a self-congratulatory missive to its own reporters, claiming that, “With the murder last year of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the ongoing detention of freelancer Austin Tice, and the injustice of Jason Rezaian’s 544 days in an Iranian prison, this is an issue that is close to many of us. But The Post is not the only news organization to have experienced such outrageous abuses. Just last year, 64 journalists around the world were killed — and more than 250 jailed — simply for doing their jobs.”
“We feel that this is the right moment, at the right venue, to present this important message to the large audience of Americans and international viewers that watch the Super Bowl,” the Post’s publisher, Fred Ryan, added.
The outlet would not confirm how much it spent on the ad, but CBS has repeatedly said that it costs $5.2 million to air a 30-second slot any time during the Super Bowl, which runs from the pre-game at 4 p.m. EST to the game’s conclusion, usually around 9 p.m.
That didn’t sit well with the Post’s reporter’s union, which heavily criticized The Washington Post’s administration for wasting so much money as the media industry contracts.
Fredrick Kunkle, “the co-chair of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild’s bargaining unit,” blasted the Post in the pages of USA Today and on Twitter.
“The Post is now paying, say, $5M/30 seconds to tout journalistic freedom during one of the glitziest and — given the NFL’s knee-taking protests and concussions — more controversial sports events in our country,” he tweeted over the weekend.
“While I too am extremely proud of the Post and its legacy,” Kunkle continued in a number of follow up tweets, “this seems like an especially infuriating expense for a company that has: a) tried to take health care insurance from part-time employees b) moved everyone toward riskier forms of health insurance, c) made it easier to lay people off d) cut their severance e) frozen their pensions and resisted the smallest enhancements to remaining retirement benefits until Sen. Bernie Sanders shamed it into doing so, f) refused to add a single day of paid parental leave to its measly four weeks and g) must know that other media companies, sensing trouble ahead, have been trimming staff.”
When asked for a response by USA Today, The Washington Post remained silent.
Although Kunkle focused on the Post, 2,100 journalists, writers, and editors lost their jobs last week as media companies like Vice, Buzzfeed, and and the Huffington Post/AOL laid off employees in an effort to return to profitability. The print company, Gannett, laid off more than 400 employees at weekly print newspapers across the country. The Washington Post, owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, is the rare print media organization that has seen growth, but the trend may not hold.