Media criticism sometimes involves reading between the lines, assessing the layered meanings of journalistic rhetoric, or considering what’s left unsaid in a given conversation. But we shouldn’t be numb to all the times media problems hit you like a sock in the jaw.
That was the case when readers opened the Washington Post online recently to find a full page “native” ad—that’s the kind designed to look like news—from Amazon (Jacobin, 5/27/21). Whose owner Jeff Bezos owns the Post and soon MGM (Washington Post, 5/26/21), among much else.
Blended in with the Post‘s banner and “Democracy Dies in Darkness” tagline, readers got text about how Amazon supports a raise in the federal minimum wage and has been paying its workers $15 an hour since 2018. A big picture showed an African-American employee and her child talking about how Amazon‘s generosity is allowing them to move to a bigger home.
Never mind that, as many could tell you, the company was dragged kicking and screaming to that wage increase (Jacobin, 10/2/18); that they continue to fund groups that strenuously oppose a $15 minimum wage (Jacobin, 5/27/21), like the US Chamber of Commerce; that they have vigorously and vehemently opposed union organizing (New York Times, 3/16/21)—and that no wage can justify the dangerous and degrading conditions Amazon is reported to subject many of its workers to (Intercept, 3/25/21).
Just as it was selling Post readers on the notion that it’s lifting folks to a better life, Amazon was being cited by OSHA for a rate of serious workplace injuries nearly double that at other employers (CNBC, 6/1/21). A front-page, “truthy-looking” ad about corporate benevolence is surely designed to deflect from such troubling realities.
It didn’t prevent the paper (6/1/21) from reporting on the OSHA findings, though that story contained another kind of weirdness we’ve come to take for granted: a summary statement that “Amazon declined to make any executives available for interviews on its workplace injury data.”