OUR OPINION: Tariffs on newsprint cause far-reaching harm

Tupelo, Mississippi

(July 20, 2018)

It’s no secret that the news industry faces its share of challenges today.

One of the latest hurdles is one that’s avoidable.

This spring, the Trump administration ordered tariffs on Canadian newsprint. That action came in response to a complaint filed by a New York hedge fund that owns a paper mill in Washington state. It is separate from other, more high-profile tariffs announced recently.

And while it may appease some shareholders, the newsprint tariff has had far-reaching negative consequences.

The fact is, many U.S.-based paper mills are Canadian-owned entities, including a mill right here in Grenada.

Resolute Forest Products in Grenada employs more than 160 workers and supports an additional 500 jobs in the community, representing an economic impact of about $100 million.

While those mills are hit by the tariffs, the mill in Washington simply can’t make enough newsprint to meet the nation’s demand.

So the price of newsprint has risen dramatically, creating significant headwinds for papers across the country, especially middle-sized and smaller newspapers serving local communities.

These are not the national behemoths or talking-heads on television that have become national lighting rods. These are the community institutions working hard to inform citizens, tell your stories, serve as watchdogs and build communities. These are the publications reporting on your schools, churches and government and keeping you informed on the things that impact your daily life.

The Mississippi Press Association, and the 110 newspapers it represents, opposes the tariffs. Many of those publications are now scrambling to find ways to absorb a large, un-budgeted expense – reducing news coverage, laying off workers and taking other measures. Both the Vicksburg Post and the Natchez Democrat have cut production to five days per week, instead of seven.

An effort is underway to reverse the tariffs. On Tuesday, Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, and 18 other members if congress testified against the tariffs before the U.S. International Trade Commission. It was a broad bipartisan coalition of federal lawmakers from across the country. No lawmaker testified in favor of the tariffs.

“My greatest concern is how these tariffs will harm a major newsprint producer in my state, as well as the many small and rural newspapers who operate with small budgets and tight margins,” said Wicker, who also co-sponsored legislation that would suspend the import taxes on newsprint.

The idea that an investment group representing a single company in a single state is able to cripple an industry across the nation is absurd. The newsprint tariff is harmful to tens of thousands of American jobs, not to mention the free press – a fundamental characteristic of American Democracy.

We appreciate the efforts of Wicker and his fellow members if congress in taking a stand against the tariffs.

It is time for the administration to take action and reverse them.

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