Newspaper chain sending IT jobs overseas

outsourcing suitcase with travel stickers at edge of dock
Credit: Thinkstock

CEO tells IT staff he's ‘pleased’ to announce new tech plan


The McClatchy Company, which operates a major chain of newspapers in the U.S., is moving IT work overseas.

The number of affected jobs, based on employee estimates, range from 120 to 150.

The chain owns about 30 newspapers, including The Sacramento Bee, where McClatchy is based; The Fresno Bee, The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., The State in Columbia, S.C. and the Miami Herald.

In March, McClatchy IT employees were told that the company had signed a contract with Wipro, an India-based IT services provider.

In a letter sent to the chain’s IT employees in late March, McClatchy CEO Patrick Talamantes detailed all the improvements the Wipro contract would bring, but buries, well down in the letter obtained by Computerworld, what should have been in its lead paragraph: There will be cutbacks of U.S. staff.

One employee said representatives from the IT vendor are at some of the newspaper's sites and "knowledge transfer" is underway, meaning employees are training replacements to take over their jobs. This is expected to continue through August.

"This has taken us all by surprise," another IT employee said. "I'm not saying that we felt untouchable as they have been doing layoffs for the past 10 years, but being part of IT we felt that we had a big part in what happens" in the company.

The affected IT workers are scattered across McClatchy newspaper sites. Some wonder how basic hardware support will be performed after their jobs are eliminated. Many of the affected IT employees have been with the company for 10, 20 or more years.

McClatchy IT employees running desktop, network, servers and service desk teams filed late last month for federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

The TAA is federal program that provides expanded unemployment and education benefits for workers whose job loss is trade related. Only a few employees have to apply for a worksite to become eligible.

On their application, the McClatchy employees wrote that "services are being outsourced to a foreign country."

McClatchy was asked for comment, but a spokeswoman said it could not respond by deadline.

The letter received by McClatchy IT employees from CEO Talamantes begins by telling them the company is "pleased to unveil our new IT Transformational Program, a program designed to provide improved service to all technology users, accelerated development and delivery of technology solutions and products, variable demand-based technology resources and access to modern and cutting-edge skills and platforms."

The letter than explains the hiring of Wipro, and how the partnership "will improve technology standards and service levels."

Talamantes also points out that Wipro has been a repeat recipient of Ethisphere’s 'World's Most Ethical Company' award.

After seven paragraphs, and near the end of the letter, Talamantes lowers the boom:

"As we embark on the implementation phase, there will be a realignment of resources requiring a reduction in McClatchy technology staff. While regrettable, this action is necessary for us to realize the benefits outlined above and help the company achieve its long-term goals. Employees impacted by this realignment will be contacted...," wrote Talamantes.

One employee observed that McClatchy-owned newspapers did not appear to be reporting on the chain’s IT layoffs, although its newspapers routinely report on layoffs of similar sizes at other firms. An independent newspaper, Indy Week in Durham, N.C., reported in late March that McClatchy signed a contract with Wipro.

In February, a decision by Illinois-based Abbott Labs, a healthcare company, to outsource jobs to Wipro drew criticism of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), a longtime critic of the H-1B program. Wipro is a major user of the temporary visa. Durbin urged Abbott to retain the workers, but the layoffs proceeded.

The newspaper industry has been laying off reporters, and McClatchy has not been immune to the trend. McClatchy's share price was above $70 in 2005 before it fell to just over a $1 today.

(For an update to this story, see Newspaper IT employees 'angry as hell' over foreign workers.)

This story, "Newspaper chain sending IT jobs overseas" was originally published by Computerworld.

ITWorld DealPost: The best in tech deals and discounts.