These things come from the top, often from disconnected corporate managers getting pressured by their bosses who don’t see or don’t care how their orders play out on the ground, where human workers ultimately have to try to carry them out. The Times gets at that too:

“There would be phone conferences [with Seattle], and all this screaming, about production numbers. That was always the problem; the production numbers weren’t high enough,” said a former safety manager with oversight of the warehouse who spoke on condition of anonymity. “This was just a brutal place to work.”

And it uncovers a whistleblower, who unfortunately wouldn’t let his or her name be used, who was fired a week after questioning brutal working conditions in the Kentucky warehouse.

To make matters worse, Amazon is one of these places where people who have no other options go to make twelve bucks an hour and have to endure morning “pep talks” and creepy giant corporate slogans on the walls that say “work hard. have fun. make history.” Thanks for the history, bub. But a bump up to 500 bucks a week would surely motivate employees better.

Rounding out the paper’s portrait of Amazon, it looks at how it flexes its muscle in the book publishing market, where it accounts for an estimated 75 percent of print book sales online and 60 percent of e-book sales.

After the series appeared, Seattle Times Editor David Boardman wrote that readers swamped the paper’s website with negative comments. In less anonymous communications, unsurprisingly, like emails and phone calls, he says comments were much more positive.

Well here’s another one. Far too often, newspapers are homers for their big local employers. While it certainly didn’t hurt that Amazon isn’t a major advertiser, it still takes nerve to put out a tough investigation like this on a fast-growing local giant in a dire economy, and to deploy significant resources on it when there aren’t any to spare.

It’s also something that could actually make a difference. It’s one thing to get dinged in The Wall Street Journal, say. That hurts you in the markets, which are awfully important, but fairly abstract.

It’s quite another when it’s the local paper your friends and neighbors read.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.