Lift tar­iffs and save Amer­i­can jobs

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page -

The tar­iffs on Cana­dian newsprint have wreaked ter­ri­ble un­in­tended con­se­quences on Amer­ica’s com­mu­nity news­pa­pers, the source of lo­cal news for mil­lions of peo­ple in ev­ery town and ham­let across the coun­try, and the jobs of more than half a mil­lion re­porters, ed­i­tors, ad­ver­tis­ing and pro­duc­tion staffs in the print­ing in­dus­try. It’s like set­ting fire to the grass­roots of Amer­ica. This cri­sis began de­vel­op­ing in Jan­uary when the Com­merce De­part­ment im­posed a 6.2 per­cent tar­iff on im­ports of newsprint from Canada which pro­vides most of this es­sen­tial prod­uct to our news­pa­pers. But in March the tar­iff was in­creased by 22 per­cent, de­liv­er­ing a vir­tual body blow to small town news­pa­pers that are far less able to ab­sorb such a huge cost in­crease than are large news­pa­pers, although they have also been hit hard. Al­ready most news­pa­per prin­ters have seen up to 30 per­cent higher cost of newsprint. At risk are thou­sands of Amer­i­can jobs. The news­pa­per, print­ing and pub­lish­ing in­dus­tries sup­port 600,000 jobs, many of them at small town news­pa­pers like the Rome New­sTri­bune. In Ge­or­gia alone, news­pa­pers em­ploy 10,000 work­ers, most on com­mu­nity news­pa­pers. Many of these work­ers are in jeop­ardy of los­ing their jobs if the un­just and de­struc­tive tar­iffs are not lifted. Please con­sider the im­pact on the fam­i­lies of em­ploy­ees who lose their jobs and no longer bring home their pay­checks to put food on the table.

Con­sider that newsprint is the big­gest op­er­at­ing cost af­ter pay­rolls for the vast ma­jor­ity of news­pa­pers. Con­se­quently, as sur­veys by the News Me­dia Al­liance show, 70 per­cent of news­pa­pers ex­pect to take steps to cut their con­sump­tion of newsprint and about 38 per­cent are look­ing at the painful op­tion of cut­ting their work­force. This is al­ready hap­pen­ing. The Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s largest news­pa­per, re­cently laid off about 50 em­ploy­ees as the re­sult of the tar­iffs push­ing up op­er­at­ing costs by $3 mil­lion a year.

On the other end of the spec­trum is the Ozona Stock­man in Ozona, Texas, the seat of Crock­ett County, pop­u­la­tion 3,765. Un­able to get newsprint from its usual sup­plier in San An­gelo, Stock­man em­ploy­ees had to travel to two other cities to get newsprint and look for a way to ob­tain it from an­other sup­plier. This is what the Stock­man staff said about the news­pa­per’s predica­ment: “Those tar­iffs are job steal­ers and news­pa­per killers through­out the en­tire state and coun­try.” That’s the story of com­mu­nity news­pa­pers through­out the coun­try.

The Com­merce De­part­ment’s tar­iffs re­sulted from a pe­ti­tion by a sin­gle newsprint mill in Wash­ing­ton State, claim­ing im­ports from Canada are un­fair and in­ju­ri­ous to its busi­ness. Other than the one com­pany, the pub­lish­ing, print­ing, pa­per and al­lied in­dus­tries are solidly op­posed to the tar­iffs and have formed a coali­tion to fight them. The Ge­or­gia Press As­so­ci­a­tion, of which the Rome News-Tri­bune is a mem­ber, is part of this coali­tion and so are state press as­so­ci­a­tions through­out the na­tion.

Bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion has been in­tro­duced in Congress to sus­pend the tar­iff un­til a study has been made of the eco­nomic well­be­ing of the newsprint and lo­cal news­pa­per pub­lish­ing in­dus­try. One of the co-sponsors of this im­por­tant leg­is­la­tion is U.S. Sen. Johnny Isak­son of Ge­or­gia, who ze­roed in on the is­sues in­volved.

“Lo­cal news­pa­pers are a vi­tal source of news and com­mu­nity in­for­ma­tion, es­pe­cially in ru­ral and small-town Amer­ica,” he said. “Un­fair or puni­tive ac­tion taken against pro­duc­ers of ground­wood pa­per would threaten to put many Ge­or­gia news­pa­pers out of busi­ness and could cost up to 1,000 jobs in Ge­or­gia.” That is what we face in Ge­or­gia. Else­where the out­look is much the same or worse.

We would also like to ask U.S. Rep. Tom Graves to fol­low in the foot­steps of Isak­son by putting for­ward leg­is­la­tion to sus­pend tar­iffs im­posed on im­ported ground­wood pa­per from Canada, which is where much of the newsprint used by news­pa­pers is pro­duced.

The In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion has sched­uled a hear­ing for July 17 on this tar­iff and we hope it will be lifted. But re­lief is needed im­me­di­ately for news­pa­pers small and large across Amer­ica.

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