From POLITICO – Justin Smith steps down from FBC Media board

Ben Smith and I report on the main site how The Atlantic has become the latest media company to get tangled in the scandal surrounding FBC Media, a British company on whose board Atlantic Media Co. President Justin Smith sat until the bad press moved him to resign.

The Atlantic is the latest media organization to launch an internal investigation into its connections with a British company that has provided editorial content on foreign subjects while doing public relations work for some of the same governments it was reporting on, a spokeswoman acknowledged to POLITICO.

In addition to the internal review, the magazine also said Justin Smith, president of Atlantic Media Co., has resigned from the board of FBC Media, the firm at the center of a controversy over whether it improperly mixed its journalism and PR businesses. It was Smith who connected FBC Media with The Atlantic.

The disclosure that FBC Media had a contract with the Malaysian government at the same time it was producing positive television segments about Malaysia for CNBC, BBC and other major broadcasters, led CNBC and BBC to pull all FBC Media-produced content and launch their own internal investigations in the past month.

The Atlantic is in a similar position because FBC Chairman Alan Friedman blogged about governments that may have been current or onetime FBC Media clients in his dispatches for The Atlantic from the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. Friedman also approached The Atlantic about hosting an event featuring his client, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The event, held in March, was moderated by Atlantic national correspondent James Fallows.

Smith has sat on FBC Media’s board since 2007. He told POLITICO on Sunday that he informed Friedman two weeks ago of his desire to step down and was in the process of formalizing the request when POLITICO asked about it.

“The truth is that Alan Friedman has been a friend of mine for nearly twenty years,” Smith said. “In light of this friendship and my past association with the company, I am very disturbed to learn of the serious allegations being raised about FBC and Alan’s conduct. What I would particularly regret, should these accusations directed at FBC be proven true, is my role in having introduced Alan to The Atlantic’s editors and event planners.

“I have directed a full review of The Atlantic’s dealings with him, and the responsibility at The Atlantic for any problems it might uncover will be mine. It is my job to safeguard at all costs The Atlantic’s reputation for editorial integrity.”