The story circling the web today about The Atlantic’s native advertisement for Scientology raises all sorts of questions for digital newsrooms. And there are no easy answers.

In case you missed it: yesterday around lunchtime, an ad package, labeled as sponsored content, went live on The Atlantic’s website. The native advertisement was for the Church of Scientology, under the headline “David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year.” 

If it weren’t for the comment section, the package might have gone unnoticed. But reporters and readers started to notice that the commenters weren’t clear about the nature of the content. The comments, from pro-Scientology to the deeply skeptical, and The Atlantic’s moderation of the comments, raised eyebrows from the Washington Post to Gawker. It was shared on Twitter and social media as editorial content from the news magazine. At the eleven hour mark yesterday night, The Atlantic pulled the package and a message to readers about how the organization is reviewing subsequent sponsored content and policies surrounding it is up in its place.  Read more