Darren Aronofsky Captures the Struggle and Danger of Reporting in Stunning Ads for The New York Times

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April 21, 2017

The New York Times wants readers to understand what it takes to produce the journalism it does—that there’s real work behind the words and photos they see, and that some of the paper’s journalists risk their lives for stories. That’s why the Grey Lady has released a new set of ads directed by Darren Aronofsky, part of its ongoing truth-focused brand campaign from Droga5.

Two 60-second spots released today function similarly: A series of images that a Times photojournalist took while reporting a story are shown, while the journalist behind the camera narrates what the scene was like that day and what his process was like. The result is affecting.

“Photojournalists risk their safety, their minds and often their lives in order to capture what is really happening in the most tumultuous parts of the world,” Aronofsky said in a statement. “They rush face first into war, disease and human plight to capture the horrors that are unfolding on and to our planet. Many of their images end up changing us and how we treat each other.”

The spot above is narrated by photojournalist Tyler Hicks. His photos were used in a story from October 2015, Waves of Young Syrian Men Bring Hope, and a Test, to Europe.

Aronofsky added: “Instead of being maligned and mistrusted, journalists should be respected and thanked. For me, it was an honor to speak with them about their methods and some of their toughest assignments. I hope the commercials pay tribute to the important work these men and women have done and continue to do.”

The second 60-second spot above is narrated by photojournalist Bryan Denton. While he was covering ISIS in Iraq, the convoy he was in was struck by a car bomb; the photos he took were used in this story: ISIS Sent Four Car Bombs. The Last One Hit Me.

Two more ads will be released in the coming weeks—one from the perspective of a reporter, Daniel Berehulak, covering Ebola in West Africa, and another featuring Andes bureau chief Nicholas Casey and contributing photographer Meridith Kohut explaining what the economic downfall has done to Venezuela.

There will also be print work running in the Times.

“Fact-based, independent journalism is perhaps a more dangerous job now than it has ever has been, and it is also more important now than it has ever been,” Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement. “The Times has never shied away from conflict; whether war zones, authoritative governments, epidemics or disasters—we know that to tell the story right, we have to be there.”

According to research conducted by the Times, consumers don’t know what it takes to produce journalism. As the Times’ business model shifts to being more subscription-based, as svp and head of The New York Times brand David Rubin previously told Adweek, it’s more important for consumers to understand the mechanics of journalism.

“There’s a dialogue right now about the truth and where it comes from, what’s your journey, where’s your personal way to find it, what’s fake news and what isn’t, how does one know, what’s the role that original independent reporters and reporting plays in an individual’s journey to find the truth,” explained Rubin in a previous interview. “With that going on, that was the idea behind our effort to say let’s talk about that with this ‘The Truth is Hard’ idea and tell that story.”

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