ARI SHAPIRO, Host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.
SHAPIRO: But it's not just McClatchy newspapers. Major dailies like the San Jose Mercury News, the Tampa Tribune and the Minneapolis Star Tribune are outsourcing jobs. And when they do, they turn to companies like Express KCS. The CEO of that company is Robert Berkeley. Hello. Thanks for joining us.
: Thank you, Renee.
: Now, I understand that you have about 450 employees in your office outside New Delhi, and you call them operators. It's a term often used to describe call-center workers. But are they educated? Do they have a journalism background?
: No. In fact, most of these 450 that you're talking about are people who are really working on the design and creative side for newspapers, producing designs for advertisements. This is a job that for over 150, 200 years has been done in-house but, in fact, now can be done by companies such as our own, offshore in India.
: Now if someone's creating an ad in New Delhi for a paper local to, say, the Miami Herald - and I know you have a contract with the Miami Herald - does it matter that they will never have seen Miami?
: No. It's really not an issue for us. It's about training and the transition process. So we can spend four to six months training our staff to understand the local and cultural norms that not only include the way an ad should look, but also include things like what's a leprechaun and what colors do we use on Valentine's Day. These are all things that need to be taught.
: How much - besides advertising and other areas of copywriting - how much are you outsourcing writing?
: We are doing a degree of that. We have magazine clients in the U.K., for example, for whom we do that. We have newspapers in North America that are trialing that.
: You know, although, I wonder if you think there are limits on that. For instance, last year a news Web site, PasadenaNow.com, came under a fair amount of ridicule when it hired Indian reporters in India to cover government meetings in Pasadena.
: I'm aware that they came in for quite a lot of flak, which I think was very unfortunate. What James Macpherson was trying to do...
: And James Macpherson is CEO of Pasadena Now.
: Yes. What James Macpherson was trying to do there was, in Pasadena, provide all-around coverage of what's going on in Pasadena, which included things that he simply couldn't have afforded to cover before. By reaching out to India, and I think he did this via Craig's List, he was actually able to bring something to his readers that he simply could not have done before.
: Well, where do you see that trend going?
: We are not talking about outsourcing things like photography, opinion, insight, perspective, creation of copy that needs people walking around City Hall, that needs people on the streets. But the distance between where they are and writing that copy and the reader receiving that copy and reading the story could happen anywhere in this electronic age.
: Now, newspaper employees in different cities and areas around America, probably like any other kind of worker, won't be looking terribly kindly on the trend of outsourcing work to India. But presumably, you think it's a good thing for the U.S. newspaper industry as a whole.
: It's no secret that American newspapers are suffering from the double-whammy of a downturn, generally, in the economy and a change in the mix of advertising. To look at it bluntly, as one of my guys in India said recently, if newspapers don't cut staff, they will lose all their staff.
: Thank you very much for talking with us.
: Renee, thank you very much for your time.
: Robert Berkeley is CEO of Express KCS, and that's a company that outsources newspaper work to India.
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