Global e-commerce giant Amazon is once again under fire after sending out a media package containing a pre-edited news story and script for anchors to read on air. The package trumpeted Amazon’s efforts to allegedly keep its warehouse employees “safe” from the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) to several news stations in the United States.
The media package, which also included pre-recorded footage of Amazon’s fulfillment centers and interviews with its workers, was broadcast by 11 stations, according to a report by Courier Newsroom.
The segments, prepared and hosted by company spokesperson Todd Walker, were meant to give media outlets a “first look” at how the company is keeping its associates, or warehouse employees, “healthy and safe,” while “still able to keep packages flowing,” despite being in the middle of a global pandemic.
In a statement obtained by The Verge, Amazon claimed that the package was designed to aid news outlets that cannot shoot on location during the pandemic.
Stations apologize for airing segments
Among the 11 news stations that aired the segments, only ABC affiliate WTVG in Toledo, Ohio, explained Walker’s actual connection to Amazon.
Two of the stations that broadcast the segments have since aired their apologies.
“It was an oversight on our part that we didn’t check all the bells and whistles, and it won’t happen again,” Wesley Armstead, news director at WVVA in Bluefield, West Virginia, said.
Meanwhile, Holly Steuart, general manager of WTVM in Columbus, Georgia, said that a lack of experience in her station’s newsroom was the reason Amazon’s segment aired.
“It came in as an email. It was a failure of our internal news management system. We have a lot of young producers here on their first jobs,” Steuart said in an email.
Other reporters have called out the company for sending the media package to their networks.
Just got an email from Amazon’s PR team with a pre-edited news story and script to run in our shows. They are selling this as giving our viewers an “inside look” at the company’s response to COVID-19.
Let us go inside a fulfillment centers with our own cameras… pic.twitter.com/7mDk2xmf4O
— Zach Rael (@KOCOZach) May 24, 2020
The segments were broadcast a day before Amazon’s annual shareholders’ meeting, where a group of investors was expected to urge Jeff Bezos to release more information regarding the actual effectiveness of the company’s health and safety efforts, according to a report by CNBC.
Critics have since dismissed the testimonials in the segments, noting that they do not reflect the reality going on inside the warehouses owned and operated by the e-commerce giant.
Amazon still refuses to disclose coronavirus numbers among its employees
Amazon has faced severe backlash over the past few months due to what employees have pointed out to be inhumane working conditions, as well as the company’s propensity to retaliate against workers speaking out against corporate abuse. (Related: Amazon workers FORCED to work amid rising coronavirus cases, decry workplace as “living hell.”)
More recently, the company has also been hit for its lack of transparency regarding the actual systems it has put in place to safeguard its workers, as well as its constant refusal to disclose the number of employees who have been infected with the virus, despite there being several requests for the company to do so.
Amazon previously declared that it would stand by its decision to not disclose information regarding employee infections and deaths, noting that the company does not think of that number as “particularly useful.”
As reported by CBS in its 60 Minutes program, Indiana-based Amazon warehouse employee Jana Jumpp has started a system that counts and tracks the number of infected Amazon employees across the United States.
“I can tell you right now, and the number is higher than this, but we have at least 600 [cases],” Jumpp said during her 60 Minutes interview, which aired May 10.
Amazon, which currently has over 400,000 employees, has since opened 75,000 slots for new workers in order to meet increased demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
As of reporting time, eight Amazon warehouse workers have died of COVID-19, that we know of.