Amazon senior VP of corporate affairs, Jay Carney, wrote a scathing rebuttal on Monday to a New York Times piece from the summer that depicted Amazon as a bruising workplace pitting employees against each other.
Headlined “What The New York Times Didn’t Tell You,” the former White House Press Secretary lists several things Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld’s Times piece left out, including why the story’s main source, former Amazon employee Bo Olson, was fired.
“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,” Carney wrote. “When confronted with the evidence, he admitted it and resigned immediately.”
The Times quoted Olson saying, “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
“Why weren’t readers given that information?” Carney asked, casting doubt on Kantor, who “boasted” she spent six months on the story but “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.”
Carney also explained that Chris Brucia, who the Times reported was “berated” in his performance review after being promoted, was actually praised in a written review.
“Had the Times asked about this, we would have shared what it said,” Carney continued, going on to share that the review document said, “Overall, you did an outstanding job this past performance year.” Brucia was given a high rating and was promoted to a senior position.
“(H)ad 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,” Carney wrote. “It might not have merited the front page, but it would have been closer to the truth.”
The Amazon rebuttal also published an email from Kantor from May that explained her intentions for the story.
In the email, Kantor wrote, “This story will express that Amazon has a somewhat counterintuitive theory of management that really works, in both a results-oriented way and a ‘there is evidence that what makes people really happy in the workplace is productivity, responsibility and accomplishment, not free organic lunches’ way.” (full email below)
Carney concluded the “article she specifically said they were not writing became the article that we all read.”
Amazon contacted the Times several weeks ago to point out the inaccuracies and withholdings from the story with hopes of a correction. The Times declined.
“They haven’t, which is why we decided to write about it ourselves,” he said. The New York Times did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Kantor’s email to Amazon in May below
Craig, it was a real pleasure to meet with you last week. Thinking back, I hope I accomplished two things in particular. The first was to convey that this story will express that Amazon has a somewhat counterintuitive theory of management that really works, in both a results-oriented way and a “there is evidence that what makes people really happy in the workplace is productivity, responsibility and accomplishment, not free organic lunches” way. While we were talking, I also realized that you were envisioning a story that is basically a stack of negative anecdotes from ex-Amazonians. But if we were using that story form, we’d just come to you for responses and be done. As I said, this article is more of an inquiry into the nature of work, which is why we’re trying to get you to share your point of view as well as positive material – to get anecdotes and quotes from you into the story that says “here’s why we do things this way, here’s what we’ve learned, here’s what works for us.” This isn’t a trick to get you to share material that we can easily undercut – we find it genuinely compelling.