It’s been a busy few days for Amazon since the NYTimes launched the latest salvo in its campaign against the retailer.
And now it’s time for the dissection and debate of the campaign. And yes, it is a campaign.
As Sonny Brunch documented over at the Washington Free Beacon, the NYTimes in general and Streitfeld in particular has been engaging in a long-running campaign of one-sides coverage since 2013. In fact, it got so bad last fall that NYTimes own public editor publicly rebuked Streitfeld (arguing that Publishing Battle Should Be Covered, Not Joined).
Streitfeld was faulted for taking a side last fall. His coverage at the time lacked balance, and according to Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine, the piece from Saturday demonstrated a similar lack of context and balance.
In this case, context and balance could have been achieved by discussing Amazon in terms of how its working conditions compared to other tech companies. That context was provided by Greg Ferenstein at ReadWrite, who pointed out that many of the shocking allegations the NYTimes “exposed” merely reiterated complaints made on Glassdoor.com, where Amazon doesn’t rate much worse than Yahoo or Microsoft.
Amazon did rate lower than Facebook and Google, but according to anonymous commenters both of those companies did have issues with work-life balance. And anyway, Amazon is taking steps to improve moral and empathy.
The New Yorker’s Borowitz Report got their hands on the secret secret email Bezos sent out Sunday night. You know, the one where Bezos wrote that “the company would begin grading its workers on empathy, and that the ten per cent found to be least empathic would be immediately culled from the herd”.
And one final word. With all the discussion, debate, and statistics, it’s worth remembering that, as Chris Meadows pointed out at Teleread earlier today, there’s no way short of an exhaustive and impractical survey of Amazon’s employees to know what’s really going on at the company. All we have to go on, both from the employees and the pundits, are imperfect and possibly contradictory accounts. He phrased it better:
Who can tell which story about Amazon is true? Maybe they’re all true. And all false, in combination. So, read the stories and pick whichever one appeals to you. Believe whatever fits in with your own version of reality. Either way, it probably won’t make too much difference to the workers at Amazon. Either they’re being mistreated or they aren’t, and whether you think they are or not won’t change things.
image by Shadow Viking