Wednesday 17 January 2018

Amazon's no holds barred reply to New York Times 'expose' on corporate culture

Denial: Billionaire Jeff Bezos said the New York Times portrayed his firm as a soulless, dystopian workplace
Denial: Billionaire Jeff Bezos said the New York Times portrayed his firm as a soulless, dystopian workplace
Michael Cogley

Michael Cogley

Amazon has responded with a no holds barred reply to a New York Times 'expose' on the online retailer's corporate culture.

In a blog post on Monday by senior vice president for global corporate affairs at Amazon, Jay Carney, Amazon lament the lack of context associated with the piece.

Carney claims that Bo Olson, who told of co-workers crying at their desks, had resigned after being confronted with accusations of fraud.

“Here’s what the story didn’t tell you about Mr. Olson: his brief tenure at Amazon ended after an investigation revealed he had attempted to defraud vendors and conceal it by falsifying business records. When confronted with the evidence, he admitted it and resigned immediately,” Carney alleged in the blog post.

The comments two months after the 'New York Times' published an investigative article where it interviewed 100 current and former white collar Amazon managers and executives who described the pressure and stress they were under inside the company.

In the article former employees described managers crying at work after meetings, how poor performers get weeded out, how bosses were unsympathetic to those who had suffered personal crises and how people were expected to answer emails after midnight and got text messages asking why they hadn't answered the email.

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Mr Carney continued his post, questioning the journalistic integrity of the Times’ reporters.

“The Times boasts that the two reporters with bylines on the story, Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld, spent six months working on it. We were in regular communication with Ms. Kantor from February through the publication date in mid-August.

"And yet somehow she never found the time, or inclination, to ask us about the credibility of a named source whose vivid quote would serve as a lynchpin for the entire piece. Did Ms. Kantor’s editors at the Times ask her whether Mr. Olson might have an axe to grind? Or under what circumstances Mr. Olson’s employment at Amazon was terminated?

"Even with breaking news, journalistic standards would encourage working hard to uncover any bias in a key source. With six months to work on the story, journalistic standards absolutely require it.”

Carney said that it wasn’t just Olson’s quotes that were without context but said that the other example case studies cited were also misinterpreted.

“Dina Vaccari, the former employee who is quoted saying she didn’t sleep for four days straight to illustrate just how hard Amazon forces people to work, posted her own response to the article.

"Here’s what she said: “Allow me to be clear: The hours I put in at Amazon were my choice. I was enrolled in the University of Washington’s Foster Technology MBA program while I was in charge of building three new Amazon retail categories and going through an emotional breakup when I didn’t sleep for those four days. No one ever forced me to do this — I chose it and it sucked at the time but in no way was I asked or forced by management to do this.”

Carney concluded the piece by saying that the newspaper had done a disservice to its readers.

“The Times got attention for their story, but in the process they did a disservice to readers, who deserve better. The next time you see a sensationalistic quote in the Times like “nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk”, you might wonder whether there’s a crucial piece of context or backstory missing — like admission of fraud — and whether the Times somehow decided it just wasn’t important to check.”

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