Amazon Bashing

imagesThe NYT and its Big Publishing NY neighbors have colluded for years to discredit indie-publishing in general and Amazon in particular. Their reporting got so biased about a year ago that I cancelled my subscription. (That and their lack of reporting on Mexico, apparently way too déclassé to warrant their attention.) The following is a comment from Forbes contributor George Anders. He knows his stuff as he wrote a cover story in 2012 on Jeff Bezos.

Amazon.com can be a tough place to work. In this 2012 Forbes cover story, I alluded to the online retailer’s stressful, low-perks culture, driven by founder Jeff Bezos’s nonstop ambitions. Now The New York Times has published a 5,700-word expose, chronicling endless cases of workers pushed to the breaking point as Amazon redefines the modern office to be “more nimble and more productive, but harsher and less forgiving.”

. . .

Early in the piece, the Times declares that Bezos “turned to data-driven management very early.” To back up that assertion, the Times shares a story of Bezos at age 10: “He wanted his grandmother to stop smoking, he recalled in a 2010 graduation speech at Princeton. He didn’t beg or appeal to sentiment. He just did the math, calculating that every puff cost her a few minutes. “You’ve taken nine years off your life!” he told her. She burst into tears.”

For some inexplicable reason, the Times doesn’t tell us what happened next. It’s all in the Princeton commencement talk . . . . Bezos’s grandfather stopped the car. The old man signaled for his 10-year-old grandson to step outside. Once they were standing together, the old man said: “Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.”

That encounter has haunted Bezos for a long time. At the close of his Princeton talk, Bezos posed a series of rhetorical questions to graduates, including: “Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?” and “Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?”

. . .

Journalists enjoy the right to be selective, conducting long interviews and then using only short segments in an article. They enjoy the right to interview wide ranges of people and then to build the final story around a small subset. I’ve talked to a lot of Amazon alumni over the years, and my sense is that the Times piece captures something fundamentally true about the Seattle company’s breakneck pace.

All the same, there’s something worrisome when the discard pile tells a very different story than what makes it into print.

Here’s the rest Forbes.

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