Jay Carney’s Response to Dean Baquet

Dear Dean,

Thank you for your response. The bottom line is the New York Times chose not to fact-check or vet its most important on-the-record sources, despite working on the story for six months. I really don’t see a defensible explanation for that failure.

Falling back on the claim that Ms. Kantor and Mr. Streitfeld talked to “more than a hundred” people doesn’t explain why they chose not to check the stories of their most critical on-the-record sources, or to inquire whether any of those sources might have an axe to grind. And since they didn’t bother to check or vet the anecdotes and quotes from sources willing to go on the record, how much credibility should readers assign to all the anecdotes and quotes in the story from anonymous sources, the ones no one can check even now? And how many of the “more than a hundred” people interviewed had positive experiences at Amazon that the reporters chose not to include in their story? We’ve come across quite a few.

As for Mr. Olson, the record quite simply backs up what I wrote. The reason the Times’ reporters didn’t know the circumstances of his departure from Amazon is because they didn’t bother to ask — despite the fact that they were using his quote to set the tone for their entire 5,600-word article.

Regarding Ms. Willet, you’re citing what she told your reporters about her meeting with her manager. But my point is that Ms. Kantor and Mr. Streitfeld never asked for the other side of the story. If they had, we could have told them exactly how the Anytime Feedback tool was used — and how rarely. But the reporters didn’t ask, so readers were kept in the dark.

As for Ms. Vaccari, the anecdote about her four sleepless nights, as it appeared in the Times, was clearly meant to convey just how punishing Amazon’s workplace could be. Her blog post makes clear that’s not what she meant.

Reporters like to joke about stories and anecdotes that are “too good to check.” But the joke is really a warning. When an anecdote or quote is too good to check, it’s usually too good to be true.

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