A proposed duty on newsprint imported from Canada could prove deadly for struggling papers across the United States. Newsprint prices have been steadily increasing. They jumped in October to a three-year high. The duty would only compound the situation.
The proposed duty came after North Pacific Paper Co. logged a trade complaint against Canadian suppliers of paper last year, alleging the government subsidizes the industry, giving it an unfair advantage compared to domestic paper producers.
The U.S. government began its investigation and a January announcement from the U.S. Department of Commerce is all but likely to see duties of 15% to 25% placed on paper products. Canada is the top provider of newsprint in the world, and the U.S. is its biggest market.
In an industry locked in a precarious position, newspaper publishers are preparing for the worst, and some expect to be forced to completely close up shop.
Local journalism is the lifeblood of communities the world over, and it is also the most vulnerable to even the smallest budget adjustments. While larger papers count the cost of their print paper as a small fraction of their operating budget, small, local papers have been placing razor-sharp focus on their budgets for decades.
Small pubs have seen subscription and advertising monies decline.
A story in the Financial Post noted the Idaho Press-Tribune is reported to have pulled back publishing to six days a week in order to save money. When the town’s Macy’s department store closed, the newspaper took a big hit in lost advertising dollars. That meant the publication had to find further ways to save money. The duty will make production of small titles like the Press-Tribune nearly impossible.
The current administration’s barrage of attacks on the press has been well documented over the last year. But this twist—throttling the required materials to actually produce the news—is a surreal and sobering reminder that no one aspect of maintaining a free press can be ignored.