In a victory for newspapers across the country, the International Trade Commission voted unanimously last week to reverse tariffs imposed on newsprint imported from Canada — thanks in part to the role Wisconsin newspaper professionals played.

“This is clearly a victory for the newspaper and printing industry in general,” said Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA) President Skip Bliss, publisher of The (Janesville) Gazette (note: Bliss Communications also contract prints the Waunakee Tribune).

“To me, this is a victory for America. The newspaper industry faces a lot of challenges and this was one of the most critical,” Bliss said. “The industry owes a thank you to its readers and advertisers who helped us in this fight. We appreciate the support of Congress and look forward to the continued support of our readers who realize that a free press is so critical to democracy.”

Preliminary tariffs were first imposed in January after a trade case was brought by the Washington state-based paper mill NORPAC.

The tariffs drove up the cost of newsprint by nearly 30 percent, forcing many newspapers to reduce their print distribution and cut staff.

On Aug. 2, the Department of Commerce revised the tariffs to slightly lower levels but, ultimately, upheld them. The ITC decision reverses that determination.

“The united front from our industry to fight the tariff has paid off,” WNA Executive Director Beth Bennett said. “The decision today to repeal the tariff on Canadian newsprint is a huge victory for the future viability of the newspaper industry. I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to everyone who worked so very hard to defeat the tariff at both the state and federal level. The member newspapers of the WNA played a critical role in the eventual outcome that we celebrate today, they are to be congratulated.”

WNA Foundation President Andrew Johnson was one of two publishers to testify at the ITC’s July 17 hearing in Washington, D.C. Nineteen members of Congress also voiced their opposition during the hearing.

“The WNA is so thankful that the commissioners saw the truth behind the reasons for the tariff and did the right thing,” said Johnson, publisher of the (Mayville) Dodge County Pionier, the Campbellsport News and the Kewaskum Statesman. “This is a great day for newspapers.”

Several WNA members have been vocal opponents of the import tax, including an editorial that appeared in this newspaper.

Bliss also denounced the tariffs in an Aug. 9 New York Times article.

Multimedia Channels CEO Patrick Wood discussed the tariffs’ detrimental effect during a CNBC segment that ran earlier this month after Wood appealed to readers of his newspaper.

The ITC will release its final report, which will include an explanation of the commission’s reasoning, on Sept. 17. NORPAC can then appeal the commission’s ruling.

For those who don’t think that traditional news media don’t matter, this decision clearly demonstrates that it does.

Newspapers in Wisconsin already operate with the interests of their communities in mind, and we believe those in Congress who supported the end of the tariff also acted in their best interest as well.

The free flow of information is what the drafters of the Constitution intended for members of the press, including local newspapers who know their communities well.

The ITC’s ruling not only represents a victory for newspapers, but it also represents a victory for the continued free flow of information to communities everywhere.

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