The Scientology Ad

Ta-Nehisi Coates beat me to the punch* in quoting the magazine's official statement on the "sponsored content" advertorial from the Church of Scientology that was on our site for about 12 hours yesterday. Because it's important, here's that statement in full:

We screwed up. It shouldn't have taken a wave of constructive criticism -- but it has -- to alert us that we've made a mistake, possibly several mistakes. We now realize that as we explored new forms of digital advertising, we failed to update the policies that must govern the decisions we make along the way.  It's safe to say that we are thinking a lot more about these policies after running this ad than we did beforehand. In the meantime, we have decided to withdraw the ad until we figure all of this out.  We remain committed to and enthusiastic about innovation in digital advertising, but acknowledge--sheepishly--that we got ahead of ourselves.  We are sorry, and we're working very hard to put things right.  

That ad was a mistake in both concept and execution. I am sorry that we ran it in the first place, which we and others will always remember as an error; but I think the quick response and forthright statement reflect the best parts of the magazine's tradition. I am saying all of this as a loyal and long-time Atlantic employee but as an observer of rather than participant in this recent drama. (That is, I had nothing to do with any part of this: the origin of the ad, the decision to pull it, or the drafting of this statement.) Every person and every institution makes mistakes. We've recognized, admitted, and tried to correct this one, and we'll do our best to learn from it.
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* On the other hand, I'm on an actual airline flight as I type and post this. My rare escape from United reminds me that other airlines offer Gogo-in-flight.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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