Amazon reportedly sent a script and pre-recorded footage to local news stations across the country in an attempt to deflect criticism of its difficulties with warehouse worker safety during the coronavirus pandemic, but the similarities became too glaring for the puff piece to fly under the radar. Courier Newsroom compiled the broadcasts into a single video, overlaying the dialogue to emphasize its exact similarities: “Amazon has transformed its operations in response to COVID-19 to keep employees safe and packages flowing…” None of the anchors except one in Toledo, Ohio, disclosed the origin of the material. Amazon told Courier that the Business Wire press release service had published the material.
Investors plan to press the e-commerce company on its worker safety measures during a shareholder meeting Wednesday following the deaths of at least eight warehouse workers from the coronavirus. Zach Rael, an Oklahoma City reporter for KOCO 5, tweeted a screenshot of the script along with his public refusal to follow it: “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. No.”
The day after the segment aired, Amazon issued a statement: “We welcome reporters into our buildings and it’s misleading to suggest otherwise. This type of video was created to share an inside look into the health and safety measures we’ve rolled out in our buildings and was intended for reporters who for a variety of reasons weren’t able to come tour one of our sites themselves.”