Workers pack and ship customer orders at the 750,000-square-foot Amazon processing center in Romeoville, Illinois.
Local news stations run a segment produced by Amazon touting its efforts to protect warehouse workers from coronavirus.
The segment includes pre-recorded images of its distribution centers, interviews with workers and a pre-written script for anchors to be read live, according to a Amazon release. He promises to give points of sale a “first glimpse” of how the company maintains “its associates in good health and safety and always able to keep the packages fluid”.
The testimonials included in the package differ significantly from the conditions described by Amazon warehouse workers during the pandemic. Since March, tensions have increased between Amazon and workers at its facilities across the country, as the number of positive cases and deaths from the coronavirus continues to increase. Amazon has already said it was gone “great lengths” to keep workers safe, but workers keep saying the company hasn’t done enough.
It is not known how many television stations have broadcast the segment. At least two stations promoted the segment on Twitter, while other TV reporters on Twitter called Amazon for sending the pitch to them.
Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, criticized Amazon on Twitter, calling the segment “propaganda” and calling on the company to grant warehouse workers sick leave, which prompted a response from the policy account Amazon public.
An Amazon spokesperson disputed claims that the segments were designed to try to reframe the history of working conditions at its warehouse.
“We welcome journalists into our buildings and it is misleading to suggest otherwise,” the spokesman said in a statement. “This video was created to share an inside look at the health and safety measures we have deployed in our buildings and was intended for journalists who, for various reasons, were unable to come and visit one of our sites themselves.”
Such segments produced by the company, often called video press releases, are not a new phenomenon and they are not unique to Amazon.
News agencies often receive video press releases from companies, public relations agencies, and advertising agencies to facilitate the reporting process or to run content as a segment alone. The practice was criticized because it may not be clear to viewers that the segment was produced by a company. For example, in the Amazon segment this week, some local anchors credited the producer of the piece without disclosing that he works for Amazon.
The spokesperson said that Amazon was transparent that the material came from the company. The video was not promotional material and no one who participated in the video was paid, the spokesman added.
UN J. Bayatpour, a Madison reporter, WKOW from Wisconsin, told CNBC that Amazon released the story last week, but WKOW refused to lead the segment. While the store has already received video press releases, Bayatpour said the Amazon segment stood out because it included a script, “all along the anchor token”.
“If it were just b-roll, it would be similar to the video press releases we’ve seen before,” Bayatpour said in an interview. “But my CIOs made it clear that it was not something we should be managing.”