Newsprint tariff will hurt every type of reader (Editorial)

Springfield, Massachusetts

By The Republican Editorials
(July 3, 2018)

A tariff on Canadian newsprint will hurt liberal readers, conservative readers, sports fans, the shopper who wants to check out the ads and the kid who wants to read the comics.

Under the complicated laws dealing with trade, one complaint by one paper mill in the state of Washington, the North Pacific Paper Co., employing only 300 people, supported by no other paper producers, has managed to endanger the financial underpinnings of 600,000 jobs in the newspaper, book publishing and related industries.

The tariff of more than 30 percent, imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, is not about politics. It’s not a comeuppance for a print industry that some feel has been biased against their opinions. It carries the potential to hurt everybody in a country that needs a free and fair press – but first and foremost, needs a healthy and viable press.

Any skeptics should consider the sponsors of a House bill that would remove the tariff. It is co-sponsored by Republican Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Democrat Charlie Crist of Florida, but the other 10 sponsors are all Republicans willing to challenge the tariff.

Noem’s statement, written from her office in a very red Midwestern state, warns the tariff could spell the end for countless local and hometown newspapers. Her bill asks for the tariff to be put on hold until a Commerce Department study on potential negative impact is completed.

In our politically polarized climate, with media objectivity under scrutiny as never before, any claim by media that its business model is suffering is likely to be met by support from some sides but snickering by others. That obfuscates what should be an obvious fact: this is not about political ideologies.

Newspapers of both conservative and liberal leanings (and those seeking an objective balance) must all pay the higher cost equally. Smaller publications are hit especially hard, though large operations are also deeply affected.

Those hurt most, however, are the customers who want their children’s high school games covered by the local paper. Those affected will be consumers who find comfort in posting a loved one’s obituary in the newspaper for others in the community to see.

Newspapers play important roles that go far beyond covering and analyzing Washington politics. They report state and local news. They give local advertisers affordable options. And yes, they provide horoscopes, classified ads and the funny pages too.

Every single benefit offered by a newspaper is being jeopardized by this tariff, which comes at a time the survival struggle for traditional print is no secret. Before any political faction chortles about it, they should remember that their voices, too, will be muffled if print newspapers cannot remain competitive and solvent.

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