Amazon just fired back all guns blazing at the NYT's scathing report on working conditions

Jay CarneyREUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Amazon has aggressively hit back at a highly critical report from The New York Times in August about employee working conditions.

The Times' story had said that Amazon has a "bruising" workplace culture, with employees working long hours in often very stressful conditions.

Jay Carney, the former White House press secretary now working for Amazon as VP of Worldwide Corporate Affairs, has published a post on Medium attacking the article, and implies that some of its sources are unreliable.

Here are the key details from Carney's post:
  • One of the sources mentioned in the Times article, Bo Olson, apparently left Amazon after attempting to defraud vendors.
  • The Times "never asked [Amazon] to check or comment on any of the dozen or so negative anecdotes from named sources that form the narrative backbone of the story."
  • An employee quoted as saying she did a four-day-all-nighter says she wasn't forced to do so.
  • Amazon investigated and presented the Times with its findings, but it didn't make changes - prompting today's post from Carney.

Carney slams the Times for not mentioning that Bo Olson, one of the sources referenced in its story, left the company "after an investigation revealed he had attempted to defraud vendors and conceal it by falsifying business records."

And another former employee quoted, Dina Vaccari, said that her four-day-all-nighter referenced in the piece "[was] my choice." She explained: "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."

Here's a particularly brutal passage:

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.

Carney says the company is responding publicly in this fashion because after investigating it "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."

Amazon employees have hit back at the Times' report before. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, had said the report "doesn't describe the Amazon I know." And an engineering manager, Nick Ciubotariu wrote an extensive rebuttal calling the article a "hatchet piece."

Business Insider has reached out to Times journalists Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld for comment.

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