Super Bowl ad makes compelling case for role of free press


Alan C. Miller

Founder and CEO

Last Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII may have disappointed fans who anticipated a high-scoring game. But those of us who value the role of a free press in our democracy were glad we were watching when an advertisement sponsored by The Washington Post aired late in the game.

It immediately got our attention. Actor Tom Hanks’ recognizable voice provided the narration for powerful images of enduring moments in American history: Soldiers storming a beach on D-Day. A civil rights protest. The moon landing. A flag-draped coffin in the Capitol rotunda.

Wesley Lowery, the host of our Checkology® virtual classroom lesson “Democracy’s Watchdog,” is shown in footage of journalists in harm’s way.

Photos of imprisoned and slain journalists — including Jamal Kashoggi, the Saudi global opinion contributor for The Post murdered in Turkey — appeared as the narration captured what is at stake when reporters pursue the truth on behalf of the public: “There is someone to gather the facts, to bring you the story, no matter the cost.”

At the News Literacy Project, we help students learn to recognize the standards of quality journalism, critically assess information, and understand and appreciate the role of a free press. Lessons in our Checkology virtual classroom specifically address these topics: “InfoZones” teaches students how to identify different types of information based on their primary purpose; “Democracy’s Watchdog” explains the role of the press in holding government accountable; and “Practicing Quality Journalism” lets students test their knowledge of the standards of responsible journalism as they take on the role of a reporter in a breaking news event.

The final words of the Post’s ad certainly resonate with us: “Because knowing empowers us; knowing helps us decide; knowing keeps us free.”

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