Newspaper Print Tariffs Overturned, But The Damage Is Done

In January, the Trump administration imposed crippling tariffs on Canadian suppliers of newsprint, damaging an already anemic U.S. publishing industry. The tariffs came after Washington-state-based printing plant North Pacific Paper Company complained that government subsidies provided to the Canadian paper suppliers negatively impacted its own health.

Recently, the tariffs were reduced, however some Canadian paper providers were still seeing markups of 20%.

The damage done to the publishing industry since the beginning of the year is irreversible. There were job losses, due to staff reductions, and communities impacted. Small- to medium-sized newspapers were forced to reduce print runs, pages and, in some cases, scale back daily editions and coverage.

In April, The Tampa Bay Times blamed the tariffs for a round of layoffs, though its chairman-CEO Paul Tash declined to reveal how many jobs would be lost.



The Tampa Bay Times is one of the 10 largest newspapers in the country and is still struggled to stay afloat following the tariffs.

Just last week, Pittsburgh became the largest American city without a daily print newspaper after the PittsburghPost-Gazette scaled back distribution to five days a week. Executive editor David M. Shribman commented that the newsprint tariffs weren’t directly responsible, but certainly didn’t help. 

Yesterday, some bright news for the country emerged: The International Trade Commission (ITC) voted unanimously to reverse the tariffs. 

News Media Alliance president-CEO, David Chavern stated: “Local papers provide essential coverage of local governments and community news and events. In many communities, the local paper is the only source of community news. 

"Unfortunately, the damage to newspapers from preliminary tariffs imposed by the Department of Commerce since January has already been done. The tariffs have disrupted the newsprint market, increasing newsprint costs by nearly 30% and forcing many newspapers to reduce their print distribution and cut staff.”

While the reversal of tariffs is a victory for publishing, local journalism took a serious hit.  Plus, the precipitous drop of print advertising dollars hasn’t stabilized or reversed. Any attacks against the industry impact the bottom line — and important news coverage.

Likely, the tariffs merely sped up the consequences of trends affecting newspapers and other print publications. Print is in decline, and as the industry endures further disruption, more jobs will be lost and print editions continue to decline.

Hopefully, the ITC’s ruling signals a reprieve from immediate danger.

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