OUR OPINION: Newsprint tariff threat continues to loom in 11th hour

Tupelo, Mississippi

(July 26, 2018)

Our two greatest expenses at Journal Inc. are payroll and newsprint – the latter having come under great focus in the public eye since March of this year.

Since that time, a tariff of up to 30 percent on Canadian uncoated paper has raised the price of newsprint, creating the epitome of a tax on journalism at home and abroad.

The Trump administration ordered the tariffs in response to a complaint from a paper producer in Washington state, which argued that Canadian competitors take advantage of government subsidies to sell their product at unfairly low prices.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, made a final public appeal, warning that thousands of American jobs are at risk in the newspaper and publishing industry. Last week, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, and 18 other members of congress testified against the tariffs before the U.S. International Trade Commission.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will consider the broader impact on the economy when his department decides next week whether to make the tariff permanent on uncoated groundwood paper.

If the tariff is not made permanent by the Commerce Department, it will expire.

That expiration is imperative to the nature of “the good newspaper,” as former Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal publisher George McLean called it.

In a vision that he printed on the editorial page each Jan. 1, McLean shared what made any community newspaper the catalyst for its own success.

“The good newspaper is its community’s encourager which by making known what groups and individuals are doing brings mutual support for each other’s projects and invites still greater personal initiative. It is a community’s semi-official provider of pats on the back through news stories, pictures or editorials.
“The good newspaper can contribute perhaps more than any other institution to development of an active, mutually serving citizenship.

“The good newspaper should be a friend of its community, limiting criticism to needs for improvements rather than condemning shortcomings.

“The good newspaper will not merely report but will enlighten, recognizing that the typical citizen may be limited in his understanding of government, economics, human relations, etc., but frequently is eager for broader understanding when the information is presented in an interesting, credible manner.

“The good newspaper serves as an educational institution, takes up where a college degree or institutional walls may stop, teaches life as it actually is being lived without effort to conceal human potential and human progress, emphasizes the good more than the bad.”

To expound upon McLean’s proclamation for what the good newspaper is – the good newspaper is a beacon; a lighthouse to guide or warn – to seek and enable.

The good newspaper is a champion for all.

The newsprint tariff is the antagonist of the good newspaper; it seeks to damage and to stigmatize.
If you are a supporter of the good newspaper, it’s important to be part of the narrative and not a casualty of assumption.

We encourage you to continue to contact our representatives and members of Congress to remind them that a tax on the free press is a slight on patriotism.

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