Amazon Publicly Reignites Two-Month-Old, Mostly Forgotten, Feud With NY Times

Jay Carney needs to put down that yellowing copy of The Times from August, make like "Frozen" and let it go.
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

Remember when The New York Times published that raw dog takedown of working conditions at Amazon?

It led to a flash firestorm of criticism for the omnipresent online retailer and there were some ripples of conversation about the larger problem of "how we work now." You might have even had conversations during Labor Day weekend with your hippier friends about how morally repugnant it is to use Amazon since they treat their workers with such misogynist/humanist distain.

But that was back in August. We've had so much Trump since then, and playoff baseball! Even your bohemian buddy from Labor Day is back to getting his weekly bulk Kombucha deliveries made to his Bushwick loft commune via Amazon Prime.

We've pretty much forgiven/forgotten Amazon, so apparently it's high time that Amazon remind us about that whole affair.

Former White House Press Secretary and current Senior VP of Corporate Affairs at Amazon, Jay Carney published a post on Medium this morning that should have been titled "Choke On My Balls, Sulzberger" but was scaled back to be "What The New York Times Didn’t Tell You."

The post alleges that the reporters on the Amazon piece provided an inaccurately narrow view of the conditions at Amazon and failed to disclose that at least one of the former employees quoted in the piece was likely disgruntled after being fired for fraudulent behavior.

Here's the real zinger from Carney's retort.

In any story, there are matters of opinion and there are issues of fact. And context is critical. Journalism 101 instructs that facts should be checked and sources should be vetted. When there are two sides of a story, a reader deserves to know them both. Why did the Times choose not to follow standard practice here? We don’t know. But it’s worth noting that they’ve now twice in less than a year been called out by their own public editor for bias and hype in their coverage of Amazon. (Last fall, the public editor wrote a critique of the paper’s coverage of Amazon’s negotiations with Hachette titled “Publishing Battle Should Be Covered, Not Joined.” And in the wake of the story on Amazon’s culture, she wrote, “The article was driven less by irrefutable proof than by generalization and anecdote. For such a damning result, presented with so much drama, that doesn’t seem like quite enough.”)
What we do know is, had the reporters checked their facts, the story they published would have been a lot less sensational, a lot more balanced, and, let’s be honest, a lot more boring. It might not have merited the front page, but it would have been closer to the truth.

It's a scathing little post and worth a read, but it comes at a strange time. Why would Amazon even want to talk about this again?

Carney probably has some internal egg on his face for letting the piece be so scathing so soon after his arrival, but it's hard to imagine a big bank wanting to so publicly reopen a story like this, even if it felt rightly wronged. The need for good guy validation is such an overwhelming force in the tech community that competition-destroying juggernauts like Uber and Amazon refuse to put on the black hats proudly worn by most flinty-eyed capitalist money machines. And now it seems that they're choosing instead to issue butthurt responses on "social journalism" blog platforms.

Can you imagine what it would be like if Brian Moynihan went on his blog every time he and BofA got rapped on the knuckles by a news organization? Sure, it would be pretty awesome, but also very dumb. Yet Uber CEO Travis Kalanick goes into fits whenever his plan to replace drivers with robots is reported on in a way that mentions it will put human drivers out of work. Considering that the automation plan will boost Uber's profits - and that Kalanick is a businessman, not the Pope - it makes little sense to continue with the public charade that everything your private sector corporation does is for the greater good of humanity.

So maybe just let it go next time, tech oligarchs. The public has a short memory for this stuff.

Or if you do feel the need to issue a blistering response, can't we do better than Medium? I mean, doesn't anyone at Amazon know anyone at a big paper like The Washington Post? Or maybe just a news site like Business Insider?

Related