The tariffs on Canadian newsprint have wreaked terrible unintended consequences on America’s community newspapers, the source of local news for millions of people in every town and hamlet across the country, and the jobs of more than half a million reporters, editors, advertising and production staffs in the printing industry.
It’s like setting fire to the grassroots of America.
This crisis began developing in January when the Commerce Department imposed a 6.2 percent tariff on imports of newsprint from Canada which provides most of this essential product to our newspapers. But in March the tariff was increased by 22 percent, delivering a virtual body blow to small town newspapers that are far less able to absorb such a huge cost increase than are large newspapers, although they have also been hit hard. Already most newspaper printers have seen up to 30 percent higher cost of newsprint.
At risk are thousands of American jobs.
The newspaper, printing and publishing industries support 600,000 jobs, many of them at small town newspapers like the Rome News-Tribune. In Georgia alone, newspapers employ 10,000 workers, most on community newspapers. Many of these workers are in jeopardy of losing their jobs if the unjust and destructive tariffs are not lifted. Please consider the impact on the families of employees who lose their jobs and no longer bring home their paychecks to put food on the table.
Consider that newsprint is the biggest operating cost after payrolls for the vast majority of newspapers. Consequently, as surveys by the News Media Alliance show, 70 percent of newspapers expect to take steps to cut their consumption of newsprint and about 38 percent are looking at the painful option of cutting their workforce. This is already happening. The Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s largest newspaper, recently laid off about 50 employees as the result of the tariffs pushing up operating costs by $3 million a year.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Ozona Stockmanin Ozona, Texas, the seat of Crockett County, population 3,765. Unable to get newsprint from its usual supplier in San Angelo, Stockman employees had to travel to two other cities to get newsprint and look for a way to obtain it from another supplier. This is what theStockman staff said about the newspaper’s predicament: “Those tariffs are job stealers and newspaper killers throughout the entire state and country.” That’s the story of community newspapers throughout the country.
The Commerce Department’s tariffs resulted from a petition by a single newsprint mill in Washington State, claiming imports from Canada are unfair and injurious to its business. Other than the one company, the publishing, printing, paper and allied industries are solidly opposed to the tariffs and have formed a coalition to fight them. The Georgia Press Association, of which the Rome News-Tribune is a member, is part of this coalition and so are state press associations throughout the nation.
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in Congress to suspend the tariff until a study has been made of the economic wellbeing of the newsprint and local newspaper publishing industry. One of the co-sponsors of this important legislation is U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who zeroed in on the issues involved.
“Local newspapers are a vital source of news and community information, especially in rural and small-town America,” he said. “Unfair or punitive action taken against producers of groundwood paper would threaten to put many Georgia newspapers out of business and could cost up to 1,000 jobs in Georgia.” That is what we face in Georgia. Elsewhere the outlook is much the same or worse.
We would also like to ask U.S. Rep. Tom Graves to follow in the footsteps of Isakson by putting forward legislation to suspend tariffs imposed on imported groundwood paper from Canada, which is where much of the newsprint used by newspapers is produced.
The International Trade Commission has scheduled a hearing for July 17 on this tariff and we hope it will be lifted. But relief is needed immediately for newspapers small and large across America.