Loss of advertising revenues and job cuts at daily newspapers around the country no longer need explanation. But the latest cost cuts at Baltimore's 171-year-old Sun might lose something in translation—outsourcing jobs not just to other states, but to Third World countries.
In the latest round of cuts, 20 percent of advertising accounts—representing the larger accounts—now will be serviced by reps at a facility in Chicago owned by the parent company, Tribune Co., according to Tim Thomas, vice president of business development for The Baltimore Sun Media Group. "The smaller advertiser accounts [about 80 percent] will be serviced from a central facility in Costa Rica that specializes in B-to-B customer service for many corporations." The Costa Rica office is run by Hewlett Packard, he said.
"Although this move impacted 11 positions at The Sun, only three employees left the company involuntarily," he added, with voluntary buyouts, transfers, and attrition accounting for the other empty chairs on Calvert Street. The cuts are among the 45 positions eliminated this year at The Sun, according to Thomas.
The jobs outsourced this year from the business departments of the paper were not the first to disappear in such a manner. In 2006, The Sun consolidated the subscriber call center to an out-of-state facility serving all Tribune papers—in the Philippines.
Bill Salganik, president of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, retired from The Sun this spring after reporting there for 30 years. He wonders what kind
of service advertisers will be getting from the call center in the Philippines when they ask for help with local problems. "It's self-defeating," said Salganik.
Controlling interest in Tribune, previously a public company, was acquired late last year by Sam Zell, a real estate mogul who promptly turned the multi-media business into a private operation with some employee ownership. He's now leading an effort to rescue Tribune's multiple media companies from red ink that could result in the sales of some of those companies, including The Sun.
In the meantime, if you have business with The Sun, don't expect to hear the Bawlmer drawl on the other end of the line, hon.