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Jeff Bezos’s Pro-Journalism Super Bowl Ad Rankles Washington Post Staffers

Jeff Bezos was a high-profile figure at this year’s Super Bowl, with the tech magnate bankrolling a number of ads and appearing in person at the game.

But one commercial stirred up criticism from the very people it was designed to promote. An ad for the Washington Post, which Bezos bought in 2013 for $250 million, drew flak for wasting money on self-promotion rather than journalism itself.

It turns out the ad may have just been a replacement. Bezos had originally planned to air a $20 million commercial for his space-exploration company, Blue Origin, according to the New York Post’s Page Six. That fell through after his relationship with Lauren Sanchez, who shot some of the footage for the ad, came to light last month, according to the story. Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, announced plans in January to divorce.

The Washington Post commercial, narrated by Tom Hanks, ran for about a minute—suggesting it cost roughly $10 million at CBS’s typical rate.

“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,” Washington Post union representative Fredrick Kunkle said on Twitter over the weekend.

A representative for the Washington Post declined to comment.

In a follow-up email, Kunkle also said the Post has stopped paying employees additional money when they take on extra responsibilities—say, when a copy aide does reporting or page design.

“Compared to Super Bowl ads, this expense is a pittance for the Post but real money to the young people already working two jobs,” he said. “But that’s the Post’s owner, who has perfected the art of buffing his image as a defender of journalism while quietly screwing the people who do it.”

Other Post employees, such as reporter Sarah Kaplan, chimed in on Twitter: “I’m really proud to work at a newspaper that does this vital work,” she said. “But maybe next $10 million could go toward better health benefits, parental leave, equal pay, and more jobs for reporters?”