This is how a 30% newsprint tariff affects our communities and local newspapers

Farmington Daily Times
Guest Editorial

Before President Donald Trump threatened a trade war with our good neighbor to the north, one U.S. paper mill decided to attack Canada in a way that threatens the entire U.S. newspaper industry more than it does Canadian paper producers.

Our government has been collecting a more than 30 percent duty on Canadian paper in response to a complaint by that company, NORPAC in Washington state. A hearing of the U.S. International Trade Commission is scheduled July 17 to decide whether the duty goes into full effect as a tariff.

If that were to happen, it would put a big hurt on an industry that already is suffering. It could be enough to cause many a newspaper to go under. Newsprint is a newspaper's second-largest cost of doing business, after the people who produce it. That's true even in this age of rapid digital growth and hard-copy shrinkage.

OK, we admit it. This issue being addressed in a newspaper, by a newspaper, is a blatant show of self-interest — yours. Newspapers benefit their communities. Always have, and it's in the nation's best interest that they always do. Newspapers play a big role in keeping government honest, from Washington, D.C., to local school boards.

Even our most prominent, most bitter critic, the president, who has turned media-bashing into a current fad, still calls his supposed nemeses at the New York Times whenever he wants to get the word out. Always has.

In the big world outside big-city newspapers, the small local newspapers that play a huge role in communities throughout the 50 states are put at significant risk by this sudden 30-percent non-market-driven, politically driven increase. 

The economic threat to newspapers' sustainability has been significant for some time, minus the duty. Subscribers and non-subscribers alike have noticed the shrinkage of the actual product and of the staffs that put newspapers together. Those shrinking staffs are the people who hear their communities' complaints and pursue answers and solutions.

It always has come at a price. The profit margin in that price has shrunk considerably. There's not much more room for it to shrink more for the sake of a trade war on our neighbor's wood and paper industry to benefit one U.S. company.

No other paper mills have complained about competition from Canada. Newspaper jobs nationwide hang in the balance for one company, for the satisfaction of hurting the nicest neighbor any country could hope to have. We are a cornerstone of democracy. We speak for the people. Speak for us.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, June 30