Newpapers in jeopardy
By their very nature, newspapers use newsprint. Despite the strong advances in digital news — i.e., getting your news from a computer or smartphone — the majority of newspapers still deliver their news to your doorstep using newsprint. It’s the same for books: we still have libraries and bookstores despite the growing number of people who use electronic tablets.
But newsprint is expensive. The greatest number of complaints received by newspapers is about the cost of getting that newspaper to your door and to your computer every day.
A single paper supplier based in Washington state is asking the government to put up to a 50 percent tariff on Canadian newsprint, which is used almost exclusively in the Midwest and Northeast, including this newspaper, The Prairie Press. Our cost has increased 22 percent since May 1.
Less than 5 percent of Canadian newsprint goes to the Pacific Northwest, where NORPAC (North Pacific Paper Corp.) is based. NORPAC asked for the tariff, saying uncoated groundwood paper is been priced far below its value.
Illinois’ congressional delegation sent a letter to the International Trade Commission in opposition to the proposal. “Tariffs will jeopardize the amount of news and local coverage that constituents rely on in both big and small communities,” the letter said, noting the demand for North American newsprint has declined 75 percent since 2000.
For you and for us, adding a sizable tariff to newsprint means the likelihood of even more expensive subscriptions to get local news hand-delivered to you every single day of the year. A long list of industry leaders, including the Illinois Press Association, are against the proposal for the same reason.
The proposed tariff is short-sighted and parochial. The increase in costs would create cumulative losses that translates to fewer people to help advertisers, answer subscriber calls, deliver the paper, create online content and to serve our role as watchdogs of local government.
We’re a small operation who depend on local advertising dollars to survive. A 50 percent increase in our cost would be disasterous.