October 23, 2015

Medium had much more than just the back and forth between Amazon and The New York Times this week, but seeing a major tech company and a major news company bat at each other on Medium was pretty memorable.

Here’s how it went down:

What The New York Times Didn’t Tell You

Amazon spokesperson Jay Carney responded to the Times piece on work culture at Amazon, which was published in August:

“Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”

If you read the recent New York Times article about Amazon’s culture, you remember that quote. Attributed to Bo Olson, the image of countless employees crying at their desks set the tone for a front-page story that other media outlets described as “scathing,” “blistering,” “brutal” and “harsh.” Olson’s words were so key to the narrative the Times wished to construct that they splashed them in large type just below the headline.

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. When confronted with the evidence, he admitted it and resigned immediately.

Dean Baquet Responds To Jay Carney’s Medium Post

The New York Times’ Executive Editor Dean Baquet fired back quickly:

The points in today’s posting challenge the credibility of four of the more than two dozen named current or former Amazon employees quoted in the story or cast doubt on their veracity. The information for the most part, though, did not contradict what the former employees said in our story; instead, you mostly asserted that there were no records of what the workers were describing. Of course, plenty of conversations and interactions occur in workplaces that are not documented in personnel files.

Jay Carney’s Response to Dean Baquet

This prompted another post from Carney:

Falling back on the claim that Ms. Kantor and Mr. Streitfeld talked to “more than a hundred” people doesn’t explain why they chose not to check the stories of their most critical on-the-record sources, or to inquire whether any of those sources might have an axe to grind. And since they didn’t bother to check or vet the anecdotes and quotes from sources willing to go on the record, how much credibility should readers assign to all the anecdotes and quotes in the story from anonymous sources, the ones no one can check even now? And how many of the “more than a hundred” people interviewed had positive experiences at Amazon that the reporters chose not to include in their story? We’ve come across quite a few.

Amazon vs. the New York Times, as quoted on Twitter

Chris A. Williams looked at what bits made it onto Twitter and how often those quotes were shared.

It was interesting reading the back-and-forth yesterday, especially through the lens of what users cut-and-pasted into Twitter.

There Is No Crying in Inside Baseball

Glenn Fleishman wrote about the exchanges and imagined how checking the “crying at desks” detail with Amazon might have gone.

NYT: Hi, Amazon, we’re just doing a final check on some details for our story. I wonder if you could verify the employment period and job titles for some of the people we spoke to.
Amazon: Certainly. But we can’t provide any details about their employment due to privacy laws and other considerations.

NYT: Of course! That would be ridiculous, ha ha! Ok, so Armin Zann says he worked at Amazon from [date range] and his job was [such and such]. He talked a bit about how he decided to leave.

Amazon: Let me check on that. [period of time from minutes to several weeks] Well. We have some information about Mr. Zann, but we can’t tell you on the record.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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