Journalists report the facts, giving their readers and viewers the details they need to make informed decisions about their lives and the world around them. While they are usually background players, in recent weeks they have taken center stage, not as the storytellers, but as the story. During last night’s Super Bowl LIII, The Washington Post highlighted this point in an ad about the value of journalists to our democracy.
Aired at the start of the fourth quarter, the 70-second spot highlighted the value of journalism to a high-functioning democracy. Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks, the ad shared photos and clips from important stories told by journalists over the years, from World War II to the Civil Rights Movement to the Moon landing to natural disasters and terrorist attacks. “There is someone to gather the facts, to bring you the story, no matter the cost,” Hanks intones over footage of reporters at work in danger zones around the world.
Some of the reporters shown lost their lives while working to deliver the news, and The Washington Post used the spot to pay homage to three losses faced by the industry in recent years: journalist Austin Tice, who was captured in Syria in 2012 and whose fate remains unknown; photographer Marie Colvin, who was killed by the administration of Bashar al Assad in Syria to prevent her from further reporting on the situation in the war-torn country; and Jamal Khashoggi, a famed Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, who was murdered while visiting the Saudi consulate in Turkey in late 2018.
While the ad highlights the journalists who risk their safety each day to deliver the news, its true focus is on the value they bring to the audience. “Knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free,” Hanks concludes.
The message is not that journalists are heroes or that news is infallible, but rather, that we are better for having access to news.
The Alliance applauds The Washington Post’s ad and its message. Knowing the facts is essential for anyone who wishes to engage with the world around them, and the best source of facts, now and always, is quality journalism.
Michael is former Vice President of Innovation & Communications at the News Media Alliance.