Newsprint tar­iffs threaten papers

The Kent Island Bay Times - - Opinion - By SU­SAN ROW­ELL

There are two things you need to know about news­pa­pers. News­pa­pers are im­por­tant to com­mu­nity life and democ­racy. Al­ways have been. We at the Na­tional News­pa­per As­so­ci­a­tion think it is im­por­tant for all sorts of news­pa­pers to sur­vive for the sake of a free so­ci­ety — the very large and the very small ones, the lib­eral ones, the con­ser­va­tive ones, the mid­dle-of-the-road ones, the ones with no view­point but just im­por­tant news, all of them. Some are our mem­bers. Many are not. We de­fend them any­way. Amer­ica needs them like we need oxy­gen.

The sec­ond is that 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. The news­pa­per in print sup­ports all of the other ver­sions eco­nom­i­cally. So, if the printed ver­sion dis­ap­peared, you can’t as­sume all would be well be­cause it is on­line any­way. It won’t be.

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 the fed­eral trade and tar­iff laws to make this pa­per — newsprint, or un­coated ground­wood pa­per, in pa­per par­lance — about 50 per­cent more ex­pen­sive. This mill has com­plained to the U.S. Depart­ment of Com­merce and In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion about in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion. If it suc­ceeds, the prices of news­pa­per print­ing will sky­rocket. The 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 past decade be­cause de­mand for pa­per has de­clined. To­day, 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, tar­iffs could force the price of pa­per up and 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 the lo­cal sto­ries, cover elec­tions, ad­ver­tise sales, get pic­tures of the win­ning touch­down, and cheer the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment peo­ple on in their work of cre­at­ing new jobs.

That wor­ries me. If it wor­ries you, pay a visit to www.stop­newsprint­tar­iffs.org and be in­formed.

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