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24 May 2018

A Note From the Editor: Tariffs That Nobody Wants—Except for One Small Company—Threaten the Newspaper Industry

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A couple of weeks ago, I received a notice from my printer saying the Independent’s print costs were going to go up.

I saw this coming … but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

Here’s what’s going on: Because of a complaint from one—yes, just one—hedge-fund-owned paper mill in Washington state, the Commerce Department has slapped tariffs of up to 32 percent on newsprint imports from Canadian paper mills. (The exact tariffs vary from company to company.)

Of course, those costs are being passed on to the consumer—in this case, newspapers, including the Independent. In other words … because of these tariffs, newspapers, including the Independent, may need to make serious cuts to the journalism we produce.

Canadian newsprint is vital to the American newspaper industry. Only five paper mills in the U.S. still produce newsprint—and even if all five of those mills ran at full capacity, they’d only be able to produce a fraction of the newsprint needed in this country. Some 25 paper mills in Canada fill the gap—and as a result, about 75 percent of American newspaper publishers use Canadian newsprint, according to a recent Columbia Journalism Review piece.

Not only is just one paper mill asking for these tariffs; pretty much everyone else in the United States—including other paper mills—is opposed to them.

“The Commerce Department definitely is open for business for these types of complaints,” said Paul Boyle, from the newspaper trade association News Media Alliance, to the Columbia Journalism Review. “They want to push and show that they’re trying to protect American jobs and potentially create manufacturing opportunities for businesses in the United States, which is a laudable goal. But anyone who’s in the newsprint industry knows that the decline in newsprint manufacturing has everything to do with the shift from print newspapers to digital, and nothing to do with prices on products coming from Canada.”

This mess has led to the formation of a coalition called Stop Tariffs on Printers and Publishers, or STOPP. While there is encouraging movement in the battle against these tariffs—including a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate in May that could stop the tariffs temporarily—print bills are already on the rise … as I learned from that notice from my printer a few weeks back.

Want to help? Please contact our federal representatives—Rep. Raul Ruiz and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris—and ask them to fight these tariffs. I’ll be doing just that after I send this issue to press.

The actions of a company with just 300 employees is needlessly threatening the newspaper industry, which employs 600,000 people nationally—and, of course, produces the journalism on which the country depends. That’s not right.

As always, thanks for reading. Also, be sure to pick up the June 2018 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets this week.

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