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The Atlantic, Scientology, and The Theft of Credibility by +David Dobbs

Editorial space, folks, is editorial space: it’s a sitting room, an intimate booth, a bedroom. It’s dishonest, and a huge betrayal of writers and readers, to turn it into a sales room.
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Eric Stoliker's profile photoJason Goldman's profile photoA.V. Flox's profile photoDavid Dobbs's profile photo
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+David Dobbs does a fine job of expressing his criticism from the point of view of writers and editors, though I question whether editorial space has always been free of selling points. How many pieces have we seen over the years, short summaries or entire chapters of books in these and other sections, presented not just as opinion, but as, "hey, by the way, I have a book that's all about this"? It's possible these writers don't pay to have their content on the page, and perhaps that's the difference. But selling points remain. 

Ours may not be a dying industry quite yet, but the transition is not easy and finding ways to remain viable and to offer writers and editors some semblance of a livelihood means going beyond the established model. Buying an ad in the age of ad networks and ad blindness is a losing bet for brands. How can publications continue to exist without that revenue? Whether we like it or not, some of the new directions will involve advertorial content.

It might benefit us, instead of simply lashing out or jumping ship, to work together with publications to find a way to ensure that the presence of such content doesn't threaten the integrity of the publication, and by extension, its writers and editors. How? That's a damn good question. 
 
+A.V. Flox all good points, but isn't it clear, at least, that this is not the way?
 
I didn't have a chance to see how the advertorial was presented before it was pulled, so I can't comment on how they failed -- not accurately. 
 
It strikes me how short a memory that internet has. Pepsigate was not that long ago. We're still feeling its effects.
 
We haven't forgotten, though. This piece is testament to that. I think publications are unable to ignore the fact that they're running out of a landing strip. They have to figure things out of they're going to join the ranks of others that have folded.
 
Hi J & A: You can see the advertorial in an archive someone saved: http://freze.it/talscientology.  I agree w AV we need to find a way; and i think places are trying. But part of finding a way is blowing a loud whistle when someone does something clearly counterproductive and deceptive, and I think that's the case here, for reasons I explained in the piece. 

See you both in Carolina, I hope?
 
I'm not sure I know; I'll have to assume that ad people have more ideas on that than I could come up with. But this sort of insidious fogging of editorial/ad distinctions just won't do.
 
+David Dobbs, we need that will draw eyes so that it appeals to brands, yet maintains the integrity of writers and editors. It's not an easy question, but I think it's worth thinking about it. I'll keep thinking.

And no! I am not seeing you in North Carolina. I have some things to tend to on this coast. I feel so sad about it. Think I can convince +Jason Goldman to bring a life-size cutout of myself for everyone to vandalize with clever things? 

God, that sounds like a low-budget version of Science Ink. Or some kind of porn parody. Not sure. 
 
Agree it needs to be solved. Believe me, I like revenue. But we can't ask writers to establish editorial credibility by writing without direct conflicts of interest -- that is to say, payoffs -- and then steal that credibility to sell editorial space. Unfair to writer and, more important, the reader.
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