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Amazon, New York Times Duke It Out Over Scathing Exposé

In a Medium post, Amazon PR head Jay Carney accused the New York Times of relying on biased accounts from former employees.

Amazon, New York Times Duke It Out Over Scathing Exposé
[Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images]

It’s been over two months since the New York Times published a brutal article about Amazon’s workplace culture and sparked widespread debate over the tough work environments endured by many employees at tech companies. But it looks like the e-commerce giant is still bent out of shape over the allegations made in the exposé.

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In a Medium post this morning, Jay Carney, Amazon’s SVP of global corporate affairs, swung back at the newspaper and said it failed to adhere to journalistic standards, noting that the article in question relied heavily on anecdotes from former Amazon employees and didn’t provide enough context. The executive editor at the Times, Dean Baquet, fired back just a few hours later with a Medium post of his own.

Carney specifically refuted the accounts of four employees who were quoted in the Times article. One of those employees, Bo Olson—who provided the much-quoted line “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk”—resigned from Amazon after he was caught trying to defraud vendors, Carney revealed. His accusation was clear: The Times, he posited, had not looked into the claims of these employees, instead taking them at their word for the sake of exciting journalism. “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,” he wrote.

The post also includes part of an email from one of the Times reporters whose name was on the byline, Jodi Kantor, in which she assures Amazon that the story won’t just be “a stack of negative anecdotes from ex-Amazonians.” Carney also notes that even the public editor for the Times, Margaret Sullivan, concluded the piece was “driven less by irrefutable proof than by generalization and anecdote,” adding that “for such a damning result, presented with so much drama, that doesn’t seem like quite enough.”

In his response, Baquet pointed out that Carney merely challenged the four employees’ credibility, but did not dispute the article’s overall findings. Carney didn’t try to argue that Amazon is a great place to work, nor did he repudiate the Times’s characterization of its workplace as “bruising.” He specifically took aim at a handful of employees who provided anecdotes to the Times under their real names. (The article was supposedly based on interviews with more than 100 current and former Amazonians, and many were quoted anonymously.)

Baquet also wrote that the article made clear that many current and former Amazon employees “admired Amazon’s ambitions and urgency even as they described aspects of the workplace as troubling.” And he provided even more context for the four employees that Carney singled out, adding that Olson denies any allegations of fraud.

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About the author

Kim Lightbody is an editorial assistant at Fast Company, where she does all sorts of editorial-related things for both print and web.

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