The Atlantic pulls Scientology ads after outcry

I saw this article last night during the Twitter outcry. What was this esteemed publication doing with this blatantly obvious “advertorial”?

It has since been pulled.

Poynter. » The Atlantic publishes then pulls sponsored content from Church of Scientology.

About 11 hours after it was published online, The Atlantic removed sponsored content from the Church of Scientology.

Journalists had raised questions about how comments on the sponsored content were moderated, compared to how comments are moderated on other Atlantic content.

Atlantic spokesperson Natalie Raabe tells The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, “Our marketing team was monitoring some of the comments,” which has triggered the need to review that process.

The sponsored page carried a Scientology banner ad across the top and linked to two stories on the Scientology website.

Sponsored content — or “native advertising” — is produced by the news organization to look and feel like the site’s own editorial work; it has becoming increasingly appealing to several news organizations, including The Atlantic and BuzzFeed.


It looked like a normal article unless you noticed the yellow box that said “sponsored content”. Advertisements made to look like real articles are typical online and in print. Sometimes, you don’t even realize. I didn’t realize until I saw NOTHING but promotional pictures and text. Then the comments! The headline was Scientology had “milestone year”. Indeed they did but it wasn’t good, it was horrendous.

One has to be VERY cautious and SKEPTICAL of news content these days. They are trying to pull a fast one on you. Sneaky.

Tony Ortega, whose blog focuses on Scientology issues, has more:


“We have temporarily suspended this advertising campaign pending a review of our policies that govern sponsor content and subsequent comment threads.”

He preserved the piece and the comments so head on over there to see them. He notes that the church is giving very large numbers of members that can’t be justified. They are desperate for some positive PR.

UPDATE: (17-Jan-2013) This is Neuron Culture | Wired Science |

” target=”_blank”>a good piece from Wired. The author notes how the Atlantic repeated the same mistaked by Seed years ago by giving ad space a format that looked like editorial space. Credibility was stolen.

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  11 comments for “The Atlantic pulls Scientology ads after outcry

  1. spookyparadigm
    January 15, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    How to utterly destroy your reputation in one move.

  2. Peter Robinson
    January 15, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    More bad news for scifiology, Mr Miscavige and Tom “we’re the only people who can save the planet” Cruise. Yee Ha ha ha ha ha.

    Once upon a time exposed that a local advertising rag was a front for scifiology and they threatened me with the Religious Hatred Act. I laughed it off, but they have ruined many, many lives. Time for their own ruin.

    Still haven’t seen how they get away with hiding behind the tag of being a religion. Seems Lafayette ‘[edited]’ Ron Hubbard originally sold the garbage as something scientific and only turned it into a religion when he realised the legal protection and tax benefits that would accrue. Thought a religion required a deity or deities? I know they worship LRH but have not seen anywhere that he was declared a god? Seems in the good ole U.S.A. one can call just about anything a religion, so, in tribute to LRH am considering setting up the Church of the Holy Turd, where we will worship merde in all its wondrous forms.

    • January 15, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      I don’t condone this type of commentary. We are not a religious blog. And I won’t tolerate bashing. Please follow the comment policy.

      The focus on Scientology here is to point out their manipulation of the media and their anti and pseudoscientific tactics.

  3. Bobbi Snow
    January 15, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    Scientology has a 5-star restaurant in our neighborhood. We stopped eating there after so often being clandestinely begged by our servers to help them get passports and money to go back to their native countries. We were told Scientology takes their passports when these impressionable converts arrive in America, and then these poor young people are trapped – restoring apartment buildings, serving at Scientology-owned restaurants, working at supervisors’ ranches & houses – for 1/3 of what minimum wage is. Oh… and if Scientology ever gets your mailing address, forget about ever stopping the onslaught of endless mailing, every week! What an insidious organization hiding under the guise of an accepted religious exemption from paying taxes!

  4. January 15, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Really the only solution, and it wouldn’t be a perfect one, would be to drop all advertising/underwriting in lieu of a subscription, or pay per view model.

    This would help curb corporate, and government bias, but people would still be able to access their favorite biased news sources, be it liberal or conservative.

    That’s the real problem, the marketplace helps create an echo chamber. If people don’t like the truth they can simply find a “news” source that caters to their delusions.

    • January 15, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      I find that the NPR show, On The Media has very good commentary about the subject.

  5. Melissa
    January 15, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    I think the point of this article is the growing number of ads that hide as articles in magazines and newspapers… Scientology is the most recent and most noticeable. I’ve been seeing more and more diet pills and vitamin ads appearing in fashion magazines that look like actual articles with teeny tiny print that says ” advertisement”. I think those fly under the radar but are no less misleading and sometimes dangerous.

    • Phil
      January 16, 2013 at 12:46 AM

      I think so. It’s not that it’s an ad. It’s a disguised ad hiding as a news piece for a controversial group. If it had been for climate denial or 9/11 conspiracists I would be just as annoyed. If it had been for Skeptic magazine I would be annoyed! These advertorials harm the reputation of the paper which publishes them. You’re trying to trick readers.

  6. January 16, 2013 at 1:05 AM

    Money will always bias journalism. It doesn’t matter if the ad is in plain sight, or hidden in a puff piece, or advertorial, or video news release on TV, and radio news.

    Underwriting isn’t much better, it’s nothing more than advertising with a different name. Many journalists simply add a little flesh to a press release, and publish it. This practice is generally unknown to the public.

    Back in the day publications like Harpers wouldn’t allow their advertising and marketing departments to fraternize with the writing and editorial staff, either professionally, or socially, for fear of bias. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked pretty well.
    Of course this was back in the day when you didn’t have a fact checker, but rather an entire office of fact checkers, and the PR industry was in its infancy. There was also a much clearer distinction between journalism, and “yellow journalism.”

  7. RDW
    January 16, 2013 at 6:05 AM

    I’m hoping that Scientology’s many ethical misdeeds will result in their being viewed in a different light. I’d think that phony news articles like this one will only help to bring them down. Too many people are too willing to ignore the horrible history they have, because Tom Cruise is ” a really big star “.

  8. Chew
    January 16, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    Here are a few primers for those not familiar with Scientology:

    South Park did an episode about Scientology. I met a former high-ranking Scientologist once and asked her if the South Park episode accurately portrayed Scientology. She said, “Yes, in every detail.” You can watch it online here:

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