Media

‘In Poor Taste’: WaPo’s Union Leader Blasts Paper For Pricey Super Bowl Ad

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Chris White Tech Reporter

The Washington Post is facing stiff resistance from the paper’s union head for purchasing what some believe could be a $10 million Super Bowl ad extolling the virtues of journalism in a functioning democracy.

“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,” Fredrick Kunkle, a staff reporter and co-chair of WaPo’s union, noted in a tweet Saturday.

The 60-second ad comes as hundreds of journalists are losing their jobs amid mass media layoffs. CBS is charging roughly $5 million for a 30-second ad during the Sunday’s game — so a 60-second ad would cost more than $10 million, according to some reports.

WaPo has not yet acknowledged how much the paper spent on the spot. But whatever the cost, Kunkle believes the ad is inappropriate considering the changing nature of the journalism industry. He then went on to list reasons why the paper was wrong to buy the ad.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at a news conference during the launch of Amazon's new tablets in New York, September 28, 2011. Amazon.com Inc unveiled its long-awaited tablet computer on Wednesday with a $199 price tag, potentially cheap enough to give Apple Inc's iPad some serious competition for the first time. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at a news conference during the launch of Amazon’s new tablets in New York, September 28, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

“While I too am extremely proud of the Post and its legacy,” Kunkle said. “[T]his 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.”

He added: “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.”

Kunkle, who’s the co-chair of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild’s bargaining unit at WaPo, told reporters Saturday he said all he needed to say in the tweets. (RELATED: WaPo Runs Super Bowl Ad Worth Millions Promoting Free Press Amid Mass Media Layoffs)

“There’s not a whole lot more to say,” Kunkle said in an interview with USA Today before noting that he had not had a chance to express his grievances to the company. “[B]ut those tweets make it clear that I for one think it’s extravagant and in poor taste.”

The ad, which will feature actor Tom Hanks as the narrator, is expected to showcase murdered and missing journalists around the world. It also comes after WaPo contributor Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Kunkle’s complains also come amid general upheaval within the industry. Major digital media outlets, for instance, are cutting workforce size as outlets work to right a wavering ship.

BuzzFeed, Yahoo! and other major outlets, for instance, cut loose more than 1,000 jobs Wednesday in what analysts say is a broadside against journalists. Vice, for its part, cut roughly 250 jobs from its payroll Friday, which are expected to have a sizable impact on Vice’s 2,500-person staff.

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