The Washington Post aired its first Super Bowl ad at the end of Sunday’s game, but many people, including journalists, were troubled by the fact that the ad reportedly cost millions of dollars.
The ad was narrated by actor Tom Hanks, who played former executive editor Ben Bradlee in “The Post,” a 2017 movie about the newspaper’s work to help expose a decades-long cover-up of government secrets. Hanks talked about the importance of a free press in society, and the dangers journalists face trying to report the truth.
“When our nation is threatened ... there’s always someone to gather the facts, no matter the costs,” Hanks said in the ad.
The commercial showed multiple slain and missing journalists, including Austin Tice, Marie Colvin and Jamal Khashoggi.
While some applauded the ad, the amount of money the newspaper paid to get the commercial on air did not sit comfortably with Fredrick Kunkle, co-chair of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild’s bargaining unit at The Washington Post. CNBC reported that CBS charged brands $5.25 million for each 30-second Super Bowl slot. The Post’s spot lasted 60 seconds.
Kunkle sent a series of tweets in anticipation of the Post commercial. He said he thought the message conveyed in the ad is important, but that the millions of dollars that went toward it could have gone to actual journalism. There was a spate of high-profile layoffs last month at multiple news organizations.
“While I too am extremely proud of the Post and its legacy, this seems like an especially infuriating expense for a company that has a) tried to take away health care insurance from part-time employees b) moved everyone toward riskier forms of health insurance,” Kunkle tweeted.
Others also expressed frustration with how the money was spent considering the state of journalism’s finances.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated The Washington Post spent $10 million on its Super Bowl ad. While it is not clear how much the Post spent on the minute-long ad, the post has been updated with reports indicating CBS charged $5.25 million for a 30-second ad spot.