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Newsprint tariff a threat to local news outlets

As President Trump’s trade war is waged with various other countries, Americans are beginning to feel the crunch.

In Lafayette County, several construction projects, such as the Lafayette County Business Complex, have been delayed or seen an increase in construction costs due to a tariff on steel.

Inside the EAGLE office, we are also feeling the pressure as the cost of the newsprint has risen roughly 30 percent since January 2018. For most newspapers around the country, the cost of newsprint is the second-largest expenditure, right behind payroll, but in this current climate, many newspapers have seen printing costs increase equal to, or even above, payroll.

The explanation for this increase begins with the North Pacific Paper Company, a paper mill in Washington state, one of five newsprint mills left in the United States. NORPAC is owned by One Rock Capital Partners, a hedge fund based in New York. Three others – including a mill located in Grenada, Miss. – are owned by companies in Canada.

NORPAC – which employs about 300 people – filed a claim with the U.S. Commerce Department, stating that Canadian paper mills were offering lower prices on their product, giving those manufacturers an advantage over their U.S. competitors. Following the complaint from NORPAC, Canadian uncoated groundwood paper – the foundation for most newsprint – saw a tariff of 6.5 percent implemented. In March 2018, the tariff increased to 22 percent.

Times are hard in the newspaper business. The dawn of the internet age and the advent of social media lures readers to other platforms and, in a push to reach as many people as possible, many advertisers have converted from print to digital advertising.

However, the decrease has been about more than advertising revenue. Since 2000, the demand for newsprint in the United States has declined by 75 percent. In the past 11 years, 78 machines dedicated to producing newsprint have closed or been converted to paper products with a greater demand.

NORPAC’s argument for the tariff states that their business was being harmed due to international trade, but a preliminary report from the International Trade Commission indicated that only 4.7 percent of newsprint from Canadian manufacturers enters the Pacific Northwest. Most Canadian paper is purchased in the Midwest and Northeast, where there are no newsprint mills.

The American newspaper and printing industry employs about 600,000 people, and the majority of those individuals work in newsrooms just like ours. They are faces, like ours, that people like you see at the grocery store or a baseball game.

This tariff not only poses a risk to the livelihood of over half a million people, but it could see the elimination of the local news that so many rely on.

Should this tariff become permanent, local newspapers will be forced to lay off staff. Others will be required to cut down on publication days, or to limit the number of pages they can produce. Many will be forced to close their doors for good. At many publications, these things are already happening.

It is our belief that a community without a newspaper is a frightening thing. We realize it is easy in a world of digital media and news reported almost instantaneously to overlook the reporter who sits through a four-hour city council meeting to inform the public of how the council is spending their tax dollars or the press foreman that works into the wee hours to print the pages you hold. Without local news, there are no profiles highlighting the role of a high school athlete in a comeback win for his (or her) team.

Local newspapers measure the pulse of a community and provide an irreplaceable service with each edition that rolls off the press, and we all desperately want to continue to do so.

But we need your help.

On July 17, the ITC will begin its final investigation on the impact and necessity of this tariff. In preparation for this hearing, a petition has been set up at http://stopnewsprinttarriffs.org, where you can also learn more about the tariff and read what editorial staffs around the country are saying.

We hope that you will consider joining us.