Atlantic President M. Scott Havens said the company is revising its policies for sponsored content after last week's Church of Scientology advertorial praising church leader David Miscavige on the Atlantic web site drew a wave of critical comments.
“It seems fitting to quote one of our founders, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who once said ‘Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail,’” Havens wrote on Friday in a memo to the staff, first obtained by the New York Observer. “This isn’t the first, nor the last time that WE will make mistakes, but what is important is how we handle them and what we learn from these moments.”
He pointed out that, despite some of the controversy being fueled by strong feelings toward the secretive church, the identity of the advertiser at hand had nothing to do with the decision to pull the sponsored content, he said.
"To be clear, our decision to pull the campaign should not be interpreted as passing judgment on the advertiser as an organization," he wrote. "Where I believe we erred was in the execution of the campaign."
Havens said he hopes to turn the brouhaha around the post into a lesson, not just for the magazine but for the entire digital media industry. He promised to update the press as soon as the Atlantic's new advertorial guidelines are set.
"My hope is that we’ll turn this issue into a moment where, as a leader in digital advertising, we will help move the industry to a better place," he wrote.
Reaction to the post last Monday was swift.
The sponsored post, which went live that morning 9:25 a.m. PT, touted 2012 as "milestone year" for Scientology, which has been steeped in controversy throughout the years.
It was taken down about 8:30 p.m. and replaced by a message saying the magazine had "temporarily suspended this advertising campaign pending a review of our policies that govern sponsor content and subsequent comment threads."
"We screwed up," The Atlantic said in a statement to TheWrap the next day. "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."