How do several local news stations air virtually identical Amazon COVID-19 segments?

Simple: Amazon offers up the content free of charge. The company has been on the offensive in recent weeks when it comes to how it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon’s offered all sorts of blog posts, public statements and made the subject a centerpiece of its recent shareholder letter and earnings report.

It also went ahead and uploaded a suggested news segment to BusinessWire, complete with warehouse footage and a script for news anchors. One Oklahoma City-based broadcaster even noted on Twitter that he received the script along with a pitch directly from the company itself.

As a spokesperson from the company noted in a message to TechCrunch, the nature of such a PR pitch isn’t out of the ordinary. Companies upload stuff to PR wires all the time in hopes of having their story told their way on local news outlets. Amazon suggests that sending out such a neatly wrapped package can give stations access to their fulfillment centers in a time when many aren’t traveling outside of the studio.

“We welcome reporters into our buildings and it’s misleading to suggest otherwise,” the company says in a statement. “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.”

What’s notable here, however, is how many stations more or less went with the straight script on this one. At least 11 appear to have followed suit. The below video from Courier edits the stories together into a handy package:

“Millions of Americans staying at home are relying on Amazon to deliver essentials like groceries and cleaning products during the COVID-19 outbreak,” the script opens. “For the first time, we’re getting a glimpse inside amazon’s fulfillment centers to see just how the company is keeping its employees safe and healthy…while still delivering packages to your doorstep.”

Tell me more.

Obviously gathering one’s own video is ideal, so as to avoid as much corporate influence as possible over a story — especially one with important consequences such as this. Still, it’s not unusual for local stations to rely on footage from companies for those places they’re otherwise unable to access. That seems to go double these days, when media resources can be inadequate for local stations. Keeping such a close read of material created for the sole purpose of placing a corporation in a good light, however, is more problematic when it comes to attempts at unbiased reporting.

Amazon’s handling of the pandemic among its “essential” workforce has come under fire of late. In addition to the firing of several workers who have voiced public criticism about the company’s policies, lawmakers have demanded the company be more transparent about the rate of infections and deaths among employees. Amazon still has not disclosed those figures, in spite of requests from attorneys general and senators, but has continued to insist that its “rates of infection are at or below the rates of the communities where we operate.”

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