Tariffs Threaten News Coverage

Newspapers are important to community life and democracy. Always have been. We at the National Newspaper Association think it is important for all sorts to survive—very large and very small ones, liberal ones, conservative ones, middle-of-the-road ones, ones with no viewpoint but just important news, all of them. America needs them like we need oxygen.

Even if your newspaper seems to be “online,” the digital copy that you may count on probably couldn’t exist if there weren’t a printed newspaper behind it.

These facts are important because the paper your newspaper is printed on is under attack.

One small paper mill in Washington State is trying to use federal trade and tariff laws to make newsprint about 50 percent more expensive. The mill complained to the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission about international competition. If it succeeds, prices of newspaper printing will skyrocket. Resources available for everything else your local newspaper may need or want to do for you will be strangled.

Canadian paper producers have supplied the U.S. for many years. They have some natural advantages over U.S. papermakers because of hydroelectric power and shipping costs. More than a dozen U.S. mills have stopped making newsprint in the last decade because demand for paper has declined. Even if Canadian paper disappeared because of high tariffs being proposed to the federal government, the U.S. paper mills could not supply newspapers with the paper they need. Mills cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and can take many years to be safely situated in compliance with environmental rules. With demand falling, no one is going to invest in a massive expansion of U.S. newsprint.

Over the short term, the New York investors who own the Washington State mill could gain.

But our country will lose. Fragile newspapers will vanish. Challenged newspapers will have to cut back. Even healthy newspapers are going to have to find ways to absorb a daunting new cost. And who will pay? Everyone who relies on a newspaper to tell local stories, cover elections, advertise sales, and get pictures of the winning touchdown.