A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation to suspend tariffs on the primary source of newsprint used by newspapers, book publishers and commercial printers. The legislation also would require the Commerce Department to study the economic health of the printing and publishing industries.
The need for suspending the tariffs and gathering information was clearly articulated by one of its two lead sponsors, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. She was joined by her fellow Maine senator, Independent Angus King, in introducing the legislation and signing on as co-sponsors were senators from both parties and several states including Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri and West Virginia.
As Collins explained, the national “printing and publishing industry is facing an unprecedented threat from crippling new import tariffs … As a senator representing one of our nation’s leading paper-making states, I have consistently fought for actions to ensure a level playing field for the domestic paper-making industry. In this case, however, one domestic mill owned by a venture capital firm appears to be taking advantage of trade remedies to add to its own bottom line, putting thousands of American jobs at risk.”
Without this remedy, she warned, the damage will be felt by the printing industry, local newspapers and their readers. King added that the tariffs “could jeopardize this access to information and impact hundreds of thousands of American jobs in the U.S. newspaper business and paper manufacturing industry.”
The president of the National Newspaper Association, Susan Rowell, publisher of the Lancaster News in South Carolina, explained that while good trade policy can increase jobs, “Applying tariffs like a tax to industries simply to penalize struggling businesses does not enhance jobs. It takes opportunities away. … If you want to silence a free press, take away the newsprint. That is what is happening now.”
The two biggest costs in a newspaper operation are payroll and paper. Any significant increase to the Times Herald-Record would mean a rise in production costs.
“If this decision is allowed to stand, it will result in significant long-term cost increases for our company,” said Joe Vanderhoof, president and publisher of the Times Herald-Record.
The News Media Alliance, which represents more than 2,000 U.S. news organizations, warned that allowing this tariff to stay in place would increase prices and decrease jobs, adding that “The well-documented decline in the U.S. newsprint market is not due to unfair trade, but to a decade-long shift from print to digital distribution of news and information.”
The U.S. newspaper publishing and commercial printing sector employs more than 600,000 people across the U.S., according to the Alliance. More specifically, the U.S. newspaper publishing sector employs more than 175,000 people in cities large and small.
As these senators appeal to their colleagues to support the bill, no one explained the consequences better than David Chavern, president & CEO of the News Media Alliance: “Newspapers will close or be forced to raise prices for readers and advertisers. We are already seeing some papers cut back on news distribution and cut jobs. These tariffs are killing jobs and high-quality news in local communities.”