authenticity at Amazon

(Photo courtesy of Todd Walker)

It can be easy not to think about the thousands of people involved behind the scenes in every Amazon purchase — from the moment you add something to your cart to the day it arrives on your doorstep. For Amazon communications manager Todd Walker, B.A. Journalism and Public Communications ’11, thinking about those unseen and unsung workers is his prime deliverable (no pun intended).

Walker describes how his duties as communications manager have changed since he joined Amazon in August 2019 due to the shifting landscape caused by the pandemic and the company encouraging employees to experiment and innovate. Currently, he leads video storytelling for Amazon’s operations network, telling employee stories in an unscripted documentary style.

“Good storytelling makes you feel something that you’re going to remember long after you’ve forgotten the pretty picture or the sound bite,” said Walker. “You can always tell when you’re watching something that’s purely PR. But when you’re watching someone talk in an authentic way, that’s going to come through in a way a scripted segment never could.”

Video storytelling is something Walker was able to pioneer at Amazon thanks to the skillset he developed during his previous career as a journalist. Believing he’d always work in news — a “lifer,” as he puts it — his original career path started in eighth grade upon witnessing the 9/11 attacks and the ensuing coverage.

“In those times of crisis, everyone was turning on the news and watching Tom Brokaw or Peter Jennings,” said Walker. “When everyone’s stressed out, upset or worried about their changing world, being that source of reliable information cutting through the noise was something that hooked me.”

Once at UAA, Walker’s professors encouraged him to take advantage of Alaska’s unique news market and not wait until graduating to begin his career. That’s exactly what he did. By the time he was a sophomore, he worked as a producer at KTUU, and by the time he was a junior, he was a reporter for KTVA. Occasionally, covering breaking news interfered with class assignments, but the experience was worth the trade-off.

Thanks to the head start, Walker’s career took off after graduating. He returned to KTUU as a morning anchor and was able to report from Afghanistan while embedded with Alaska soldiers. Pursuing national aspirations, he relocated to Denver in summer 2012 to accept a position with KUSA, just in time to cover the Aurora theater shooting. In 2015, he became a traveling national reporter for Scripps TV stations, covering the Trump 2016 presidential campaign from New York City on election night, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and Black Lives Matter protests across the country, to name a few.

“Schools in small towns just don’t have the opportunities to get that real world experience, and big schools have too many other things distracting you for your time,” said Walker. “Alaska is a small pond but punches way above its weight in the news business. And that you can move into professional positions pretty quickly is just not something that happens in a lot of places.”

Read more about Todd Walker’s previous role as a journalist in Green & Gold News.