Amazon’s SVP of corporate affairs Jay Carney is biting back at a two-month-old New York Times piece about the online retailer’s "bruising" working conditions, with a blog post stating that the article was not fact-checked.
It appears that Carney has spent the last two months going through the detailed piece – which describes Amazon’s culture as a place where employees are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings and nearly everyone cries at their desk – with a fine-toothed comb.
Reps from Amazon and The New York Times declined to comment further on the matter.
Via a Medium blog post on Monday morning, Carney disputed the points made by former employees Bo Olsen, Elizabeth Willet, Chris Brucia, and Dina Vaccari in bulleted responses, and repeatedly cited New York Times’ writers Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld’s lack of adherence to "Journalism 101" in their exposé of Amazon’s questionable working methods, which was published on August 15.
Carney, who is a former White House Press Secretary, appealed to his readership in blunt terms, stating that: "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."
An email correspondence from Kantor was also included in Carney’s post, in order to further show the misconceived view offered to Amazon of what the article would contain and The New York Times’ unfair victimization.
Only a few hours later, Dean Baquet, the Times’ executive editor, took to Medium to directly address Carney’s delayed allegations, defending Kantor’s position in an identically formulaic manner to the Amazon representative.
He argued that the points made were an accumulation of a hundred employees’ views.
"Virtually every person quoted in the story stated a view that multiple other workers had also told us," wrote Baquet, adding that some other workers were not quoted because of nondisclosure agreements, fear of retribution, or because their current employers were doing business with Amazon.
Before Baquet’s sign off, confirming the Times’ resolution on the matter, he also pointed out that Carney had said to him he "always assumed this was going to be a tough story, so it is hard to accept that Amazon was expecting otherwise."
Carney responded to Baquet’s post early on Monday afternoon with yet another Medium blog post, reiterating the points in his first post.
"The bottom line is The New York Times chose not to fact-check or vet its most important on-the-record sources, despite working on the story for six months," Carney wrote. "I really don’t see a defensible explanation for that failure."
This is not Amazon’s first public reaction to the Times’ story. When it first broke in August, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sent a memo to staff saying the story "doesn’t describe the Amazon I know." Amazon head of infrastructure development Nick Ciubotariu also defended the company in a LinkedIn post.
At the time, the Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote a follow-up piece about reaction to the story.
#JayCarney was trending on Twitter on Monday, due to his initial blog post.
The public back and forth, along with Carney's delayed timing, did not go down well with media professionals on social media.
Has Jay Carney ever heard of e-mail? No? https://t.co/p7KZYcabrg— Kathleen Schmidt (@Bookgirl96) October 19, 2015
Say your piece, and then move on. You're not persuading anyone with this back and forth— kadhim (@kadhimshubber) October 19, 2015
Jay Carney's pro-Amazon, anti-Times huff is a perfect example of toxic PR. https://t.co/m9GcIjiP0h— Jason Joyce (@jjoyce) October 19, 2015
Good work Amazon PR and Jay Carney: to think I nearly forgot about that damning story about your company until you just brought it up again— Garett Sloane (@GarettSloane) October 19, 2015