WashPost Super Bowl ad, AP helps local newsrooms, plastic surgery investigation

Your Monday news roundup

February 4, 2019
Category: Newsletters

WaPo’s Super Bowl debut

The Super Bowl is known for its iconic commercials.

Apple’s “1984’’-inspired ad. Cindy Crawford drinking Pepsi. Larry Bird and Michael Jordan playing H.O.R.S.E. for a Big Mac.

Now, it’s journalism’s turn. The Washington Post bought a 60-second commercial during Sunday’s Super Bowl. You can view the commercial here.

The ad, narrated by actor Tom Hanks, showed scenes from major news events from World War ll through the present day. Hanks described the role of journalists as eyewitnesses and fact-gatherers. The commercial also showed several slain and missing journalists from the Post and other publications, including Jamal Khashoggi, who is alleged to have been killed at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul last year. The commercial ended with the Post’s logo and slogan: “Democracy Dies in the Darkness.’’

“This was a chance for a broader message about the role journalists play in our everyday lives and the risks they take to bring us the facts,’’ Fred Ryan, publisher and CEO of the paper, told the Post.

It’s not known how much the Post paid for the ad, but CNBC reported that CBS was getting $5.25 million for a 30-second slot. The fact that the Post might have paid upwards of $10 million for the ad did not go over well with Fredrick Kunkle, a Post staff writer who is co-chair of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild.

In a series of tweets, Kunkle wrote:

“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 sporting events in our country.’’

“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

“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.’’

The commercial, however, was powerful, especially for journalists and those who support journalism’s role in society.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, was unmoved. He tweeted:

“You know how MSM journalists could avoid having to spend millions on a #superbowl commercial to gain some undeserved credibility? How about report the news and not their leftist BS for a change.’’

Right after the commercial aired, Post owner Jeff Bezos tweeted:

“Grateful for the journalists at the @washingtonpost and around the world who do the work, no matter the risk or dangers they face.’’

AP assists local journalism with data

With media companies across the country slashing jobs and budgets, local journalism is getting harder and harder. But The Associated Press is lending a hand. Poynter’s Kristen Hare writes about how AP is sharing data with local newsrooms.

Given the crisis in local news, I think it’s something really notable,” AP managing editor Brian Carovillano said. “We’re enabling local news coverage on hard-hitting topics at a really massive scale.”

The project started three years ago to get localized data to newsrooms and help journalists find the best use for it. In 2018, for example, the AP saw 1,400 downloads from 300 local newsrooms on its data.world platform.

Trump: ‘I hate to say it because I love to watch football’ 

Funny thing about presidential interviews before the Super Bowl. They are usually a perfect time for a network to ask important policy questions of the president, knowing that 100 million people are watching. But Sunday, it was more interesting to hear President Donald Trump’s thoughts on football than anything else.

Yes, there were plenty of noteworthy moments from Margaret Brennan’s Super Bowl Sunday interview with Trump on CBS. Part of the interview aired on “Face The Nation’’ and excerpts were shown during the Super Bowl pregame show. Brennan pushed Trump on international and domestic affairs, asked his thoughts about Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and brought up subjects such as race and national security.

But Trump’s most human moment was when Brennan asked if he would let his 12-year-old son, Barron, play football. Trump said he would let his son play if that’s what he wanted, but would not steer him towards football.

“He actually plays a lot of soccer,’’ Trump said. “He’s liking soccer. And a lot of people, including me, thought soccer would probably never make it in this country, but it really is moving forward rapidly. I just don’t like the reports that I see coming out having to do with football. I mean, it’s a dangerous sport. … I thought the equipment would get better, and it has. The helmets have gotten far better but it hasn’t solved the problem. I hate to say it because I love to watch football. I think the NFL is a great product, but I really think that as far as my son — well, I’ve heard NFL players saying they wouldn’t let their sons play football. So it’s not totally unique, but I would have a hard time with it.’’

Telling a powerful story across the country

Just two weeks ago, Gannett, which owns USA Today and its affiliate papers, made news by laying off dozens of journalists from across the country. So it’s both depressing to realize that good journalism is disappearing, yet heartening to see the work that still is being done. The latest example is a chilling piece by USA Today’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Michael Sallah and Maria Perez of the Naples (Florida) Daily News.

The pair uncovered a Miami doctor who they say “built a plastic surgery empire using aggressive marketing and discounts that targeted working-class, minority women.’’ Sallah and Perez found that eight of the women who underwent procedures died.

The stories with accompanying graphics show how this tragedy stretches far beyond South Florida and how, when done right, investigative journalism that can be shared nationally is still among the most impactful kind of journalism there is.

Surprise firing at ESPN

Stunning news out of ESPN. Adnan Virk, considered one of the up-and-coming stars at the sports network, has been fired. According to the New York Post, Virk was accused of leaking confidential company information to the media on multiple occasions. The Post could not specify what kind of information Virk had leaked. The only comment ESPN would make is: “Adnan Virk no longer works at ESPN.’’

Virk, 40, was ABC/ESPN’s lead studio analyst on college football and a regular host on ESPN’s baseball and college basketball studio shows. He also was a regular fill-in host on ESPN Radio.

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One last thing …

The Portland (Maine) Press Herald decided to see how many dogs named Brady they could find in advance of the Super Bowl. It turns out that a lot of New Englanders think it’s a good canine moniker, Gillian Graham reports.

“He was handsome and tall and strong. He was a really good guy,” one Brady owner said in the story. “The only person we could think of like that was Tom Brady.”