OURS: Noem’s PRINT Act vital for local newspapers

Rapid City, South Dakota

By: Chris Huber

(June 17, 2018)

We are at your late night city council meetings and American Legion baseball games. We cover your community events, and we let you know when crime breaks in your neighborhood.

There are more 125 newspapers in South Dakota, and each one is vital to the community it serves.

The journalists and employees who work at these newspapers aren’t just reporting on their communities, they are also a part of it. We volunteer at community events and coach youth baseball. We are engaged and invested in the future and well-being of our towns.
But that future is being threatened.

It’s not by the rise of the internet or even fake news. It’s a policy decision to place a tariff on newsprint from a friendly neighbor, and it could be devastating to communities across South Dakota.

The issue started when the Trump administration imposed levies on newsprint from Canada, which produces about 60 percent of all newsprint. The tariff benefited one U.S. paper factory in Washington state — that employs 250 people— but it also imperiled thousands of newspaper jobs across the country. Newspapers aren’t the only business struggling with tariffs by this administration. Folks throughout the state’s agricultural industry are taking a hit in their pocket books.

At the Rapid City Journal, our printing paper costs have gone up 28 percent since last year, and we are told to expect even larger increases if this tariff continues.

If something isn’t done, journalists across the state and nation will lose their jobs, papers will close and our communities will suffer.

We understand that we have a lot of skin in this game, but it isn’t hyperbole to say some of state’s smaller papers could close because of this tariff.

South Dakota Newspaper Association Executive Director Dave Bordewyk said as much last week. He has heard from newspaper publishers in the state who fear if these tariffs are carried forward indefinitely, those papers would be forced to close.

No more photos of Johnny getting that game-winning hit. No more making sure local governments are spending your tax dollars wisely.
Luckily, our lone South Dakota Congresswoman, Rep. Kristi Noem, stepped up to the plate with her introduction of the PRINT Act in the U.S. House.

Noem’s bill, HR 6031, would place a temporary hold on what we see as unfair and unwarranted tariffs on the import of Canadian paper used in the printing process. The bill also would commission a study to look at the “well-being of newsprint and publishing industry” in our country.

There is a companion bill in the Senate introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., signed on as a co-sponsor earlier this week. Sen. Mike Rounds has also expressed support for the bill.

It’s time to get this issue heard in committee and get these bills passed.

In a recent column Noem said of newspapers, “Their reporting reminds us the world is made of neighborhoods and shared experiences. It keeps us connected and strengthens our sense of community and connection.”

Thune echoed a similar sentiment, “Many South Dakotans count on the daily and weekly printed newspaper to learn what is happening and what is important in their communities,” he said. “Unfortunately, a new tariff that would increase costs of newspaper production threatens the economic viability of local newspapers in communities across the state.”

We couldn’t agree more.

It’s time for Congress to act and preserve these important community institutions. Our communities depend on it.

We understand that newspapers aren’t perfect, but they are certainly worth preserving.

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