Newsprint is the paper on which newspapers, and many other products, are printed. You’re holding it in your hands right now.
In January, the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed a tariff as high as 9.9 percent on newsprint supplied by mills in Canada. In March, the agency released preliminary anti-dumping duties as high as 22 percent, in addition to the tariff two months before.
The Commerce Department proposed these tariffs based on a complaint from one small paper mill in Washington state. The mill, NORPAC, filed its complaint shortly after being purchased by a New York hedge fund investment company.
The tariffs went into effect immediately, and are being collected at the border and placed into an escrow account as the final approval process for the tariffs winds its way through the bowels of the federal government.
As printers and publishers sought out domestic sources for paper to avoid the tariffs, the supply tightened and the U.S. suppliers upped their prices.
The result: A boost in paper costs for printers and publishers by 20 percent to 32 percent, no matter whether they are buying stock from Canadian or U.S. mills. Newsprint consumers, such as newspapers, will be forced to take steps to reduce costs. Some will cut pages and content or even reduce the number of publication days.
All of this will further reduce demand, and paper mills will drop production, continuing the vicious cycle.
It is unfortunate that a single paper mill with 260 employees has placed at risk not just newspapers, but printers, publishers, paper suppliers and distributors that represent mostly small businesses in local communities and employ more than 600,000 workers across the United States. All other paper suppliers in the U.S. are opposed to these tariffs, saying they will shutter or convert plants and reduce thousands of jobs.
Newsprint already was the second-largest cost for newspapers after labor, and supply was tight due to a significant reduction in demand from newspapers following economic downturns that impacted advertising, and declining readership and page counts of the large metropolitan newspapers.
Community newspapers have fared better than our big-city counterparts over the past years. But these tariffs will affect your local voice, as well.
Like any business or industry facing increasing costs, small newspapers have worked hard to streamline and operate more efficiently during the past several years. But there’s only so much that can give.
Unlike our larger siblings, we cannot simply save on newsprint by “going digital.” Print advertising and readers are what keeps community newspapers in business. Without the print edition, there would be no online local news to read.
If all this concerns you as much as it does us, please contact your representatives in Washington. Please take a moment to send a letter or email to your U.S. senator or Congressperson.
And thanks. We really appreciate your support.