What do the capitalist titan Jeff Bezos and communist kingpin Kim Jong-Un have in common? Very likely, they have absolutely nothing in common, but we will never know because both Amazon and North Korea are kingdoms of secrecy.
This week, owing to a lengthy New York Times article that documented “Dickensian” workplace practices at the Seattle-based e-retailer, Amazon was topic number one among the chattering classes. Andrew Albanese, at least, wonders whether the company deserves the opprobrium.
“First, I have to emphasize that I am certainly not condoning any of the alleged behavior in the article. Amazon doesn’t sound like a great place to work,” says the senior writer for Publishers Weekly. “But this six-month ‘investigative’ piece takes the cake for me. It appears designed not only to question Amazon’s business, but also Amazon’s very humanity. It points a wagging finger in the consumer’s face saying, ‘OK, maybe you like lower prices and convenience, but how can you support THIS?’”
Albanese admits one may argue over balance in reporting. There is one point on which journalists agree, and which likely contributed to the article’s tone.
“Amazon is like North Korea when it comes to information. There is no access, there is no transparency, there is no information from Amazon,” he tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “It is the combination of Amazon’s secrecy, its power, and its reputation for not playing well with others that creates the perfect conditions for this kind of piece to emerge.”
Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.