The Washington Post Super Bowl ad lauding the work of a free press received sharply mixed reactions on Sunday, with many — including at least three of the Post’s own reporters — saying the spot’s cost of up to $10 million was exorbitant and could have been better spent improving the newsroom.
“I’m really proud to work at a newspaper that does this vital work,” reporter Sarah Kaplan said in a tweet. “But maybe next $10 million could go toward better health benefits, parental leave, equal pay, and more jobs for reporters?”
Wesley Lowery, a national correspondent for the paper, took a similar view about the ad, in which narrator Tom Hanks extolled the free press amid images that included slain Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
“I love the Post. Have worked here 5 years this month. An amazing team full of amazing people. Can’t lie and pretend it’s not exciting to watch us have a commercial tonight,” he said. “Also really wish we provided better paid parental leave.”
A third reporter, Fredrick Kunkle, went even further, blasting the expenditure in a four-part Twitter thread while noting how newsroom benefits had been crimped elsewhere.
“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 said. “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”
“A raise for freelancer,” demanded frequent Post contributor Erin Blakemore.
A rep for the Post declined to comment.
Post employees taking issue were hardly alone. Elsewhere on Twitter many other raised similar questions about the cost of the spot. HuffPost media writer Yashar Ali said the ad likely changed zero minds and could have instead been used to fund dozens of journalists.
“Nice WAPO ad…but it’s not gonna change one mind…not one. What would have changed minds is hiring 50 new reporters with that money,” he said.
The ad itself — a 60-second spot narrated by Tom Hanks highlighting the work of journalists and the importance of the free press — was broadly praised on the merits by those who were able to look past its cost. The piece included a tribute to journalists killed in the line of work, including former Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
“Support #PressFreedom because #Journalismisnotacrime. It’s far past time to #FreeAustinTice and gain #JusticeForJamal. Thank you @tomhanks for lending your voice to this essential cause at this critical moment. @washingtonpost,” Jason Rezaian, an opinion writer for the paper, said in a tweet.
The Washington Post is owned by Amazon founder and chief Jeff Bezos, who purchased it from the Graham family back in 2013. Bezos’ management skill and deep pockets have led to a broadly recognized turnaround for the paper which had struggled for years before the purchase.
The tech billionaire attended the big game on Sunday and was spotted by reporters in an exclusive skybox with fellow big wigs, including former Starbucks CEO (and presidential aspirant) Howard Schultz.