A few weeks ago the Atlantic published, on its website, an advertorial from the Church of Scientology. Though clearly marked "Sponsor Content" it started a controversy which led to the magazine pulling the whole thing. The Atlantic released a 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 that we got ahead of ourselves. We are sorry, and we're working very hard to put things right.
Other Atlantic columnists, such as James Fallows, strongly support the decision. I don't know. Perhaps it's a wise commercial move, but are Atlantic readers so stupid and weak-minded that they can't take an ad that comes from a source they consider disreputable? Lord knows I've read enough Fallows' pieces that I considered foolish and even dangerous, but it never occurred to me the magazine should pull them.
Do magazines implicitly endorse every ad they run? Until now, I'd have thought no. The same magazine, after all, will have columns that disagree with each other, and no one is confused. The ads they run are just offering up information which readers can interpret as they will.
So stuff your sorries in a sack, mister, and run the ad again. I can take it better than I can take the idea of a magazine that thinks it has to protect me.