Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Rumble in the Jungle

Jay Carney, who is now the SVP of Global Corporate Affairs at Amazon, apparently, chose today to respond to the two-months-old New York Times story on the company’s depressing corporate culture. And he responded on Medium, of all places:

When the story came out, we knew it misrepresented Amazon. Once we could look into the most sensational anecdotes, we realized why. 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.

The Times got attention for their story, but in the process they did a disservice to readers, who deserve better. The next time you see a sensationalistic quote in the Times like “nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk”, you might wonder whether there’s a crucial piece of context or backstory missing — like admission of fraud — and whether the Times somehow decided it just wasn’t important to check.

The “admission of fraud” refers to Bo Olson, who provided the quote that Carney deems “sensationalistic”. The PR team at Amazon decided to discredit his quote today by opening his employee file publicly to a claim that he was accused of fraud while at the company.

Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times didn’t take kindly to that and replied. Also on Medium. Last I checked, the Times still existed as a medium for the words of its employees, but never mind. He disputes Carney’s account:

Olson described conflict and turmoil in his group and a revolving series of bosses, and acknowledged that he didn’t last there. He disputes Amazon’s account of his departure, though. He told us today that his division was overwhelmed and had difficulty meeting its marketing commitments to publishers; he said he and others in the division could not keep up. But he said he was never confronted with allegations of personally fraudulent conduct or falsifying records, nor did he admit to that.

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.

Carney retorted:

The reason the Times’ reporters didn’t know the circumstances of his departure from Amazon is because they didn’t bother to ask — despite the fact that they were using his quote to set the tone for their entire 5,600-word article.

It’s hard to believe Carney, given that he is a PR guy at Amazon, and is therefore inclined to protect the interests of a public company. It’s also hard to believe that the Times would not correct such an egregious error.