To recap …
The Atlantic website yesterday posted an advertorial – which wasn’t labelled “advertorial” but “sponsored content”. In most ways, it was styled in the form of typical editorial content.
Crucially, it was a puff piece for the controversial cult/religion/celebrity-magnet The Church of Scientology.
The condemnations were swift, including in the comments beneath the piece.
Even expressions of bafflement, including this one, which attracted more than 750 “up votes” …
… were deleted by moderators.
Soon the piece itself was unpublished by editors, leaving simply this:
That review didn’t take long, because within hours the Atlantic had released this statement:
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.
Not that any of that stopped the satirical publication The Onion from drawing inspiration for its own new initiative …
BoingBoing had its own pastiche.
For more sober analysis of the whole episode, see, for example, this at Poynter.
And just as long as we’re on the subject of the American media (any excuse), here’s something from The Daily Show yesterday – John Oliver on investigative journalism and CNN. Funny, clever, all that …