Posted on | January 19, 2013 | 15 Comments
If nothing else, the past week has made clear that The Atlantic‘s president, M. Scott Havens, is an unethical scoundrel who cannot be trusted in the vicinity of anything purporting to be “journalism.”
Monday, The Atlantic embarrassed itself by publishing a glowing “sponsored content” article that heaped praise on the leadership of the Scientology cult. This ludicrous “advertorial” got yanked within 12 hours, after exposing the once-reputable Atlantic to vicious (and inarguably well deserved) ridicule, including a dead-on parody by The Onion: “The Taliban Is A Vibrant And Thriving Political Movement.”
The motives of the Scientology cultists were clear enough: A shocking exposé was coming out (Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, by Lawrence Wright), so they were buying some public-relations damage control with this “article” at a prestigious journal.
Unfortunately for the Scientology swindlers, that backfired disastrously and the “sponsored content” scandal led to a “Streisand Effect” that actually increased scrutiny of the ripoff science fiction cult. Going Clear is now the No. 1 bestseller among religion books at Amazon, and No. 5 overall. The surge of media attention has also boosted sales of Janet Reitman’s 2011 book Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion, as well as advance sales of the soon-to-be-released Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, a tell-all memoir by Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige.
This negative publicity backlash has also damaged The Atlantic‘s upscale brand, and that damage is likely to be made worse by the attempt of the magazine’s top executive to talk his way out of this humiliation. Late Friday, M. Scott Havens sent out a company-wide memo that was immediately leaked to media watchdog Jim Romenesko. The memo was crammed with dishonest doubletalk like this:
We ran a “native advertising” campaign for a new advertiser that, while properly labeled as Sponsor Content, was in my opinion inconsistent with the strategy and philosophy for which this program is intended. In this case, we did not adequately work with the advertiser to create a content program that was in line with our brand. In addition, because we had not fully thought through the issues around commenting on Sponsor Content, we made some mistakes trying to moderate the commenting thread. The general media climate also played a role here.
Once these issues came to light and I had the opportunity to assess the campaign, I made the decision to suspend it pending further review. To be clear, our decision to pull the campaign should not be interpreted as passing judgment on the advertiser as an organization. Where I believe we erred was in the execution of the campaign.
Upon reading that self-serving heap of bullshit, one hopes, the entire staff of The Atlantic replied by e-mail with two weeks’ notice.
Havens is a lying pimp who treats his employees like dishonest whores.
- Jan. 16: ‘Streisand Effect’: Scientology Imploding?
- Jan. 15: The Problem With ‘Sponsored Content’: Atlantic Unpublishes Scientology Article