The Scientology Ad

By James Fallows

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/01/the-scientology-ad/267198/