Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president of global corporate affairs, accused the publishing giant of not following “Journalism 101,” claiming that reporters Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld failed to fact-check the anecdotes in the blistering August expose. “Journalism 101 instructs that facts should be checked and sources should be vetted.”
“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 Monday in a blog post on Medium. “It might not have merited the front page, but it would have been closer to the truth.”
He cites a quote from then-employee Bo Olson that “nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.” Carney says Olson was a biased source who should not have been included in the story as he left the online retailer after admitting to attempted fraud and falsifying business records.
“Kantor never asked us to check or comment on any of the dozen or so negative anecdotes from named sources that form the narrative backbone of the story,” the former White House press secretary wrote. “We presented the Times with our findings several weeks ago, hoping they might take action to correct the record. They haven’t, which is why we decided to write about it ourselves.”
“Our reporters spoke to more than a hundred current and former employees, at various levels and divisions, over many months,” he wrote. “Many, including most of those you cited, talked about how they admired Amazon’s ambitions and urgency even as they described aspects of the workplace as troubling.”
Baquet also said that Olson denied that claim that he resigned from Amazon after admitting to fraud, as Carney claimed.
“He said he was never confronted with allegations of personally fraudulent conduct or falsifying records, nor did he admit to that,” Baquet wrote. “If there were criminal charges against him, or some formal accusation of wrongdoing, we would certainly consider that. If we had known his status was contested, we would have said so.”
The public battle continued when Carney responded to Baquet’s response, saying there was no “defensible explanation” for the paper’s fact-checking failures.
“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,” he wrote. “I really don’t see a defensible explanation for that failure.”
In the piece, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace,” the New York Times described Amazon as a “bruising workplace,” a cruel and abusive environment where employees are penalized for taking medical leave or vacation days.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote in a memo to employees back in August that he didn’t recognize the company described in the article.
“The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day,” Bezos wrote. “But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.”