We need your help to fight Trump's newsprint tariffs


Trade wars are never good for anyone, and particularly not for consumers.

Higher tariffs translate to higher production costs, which translate to higher prices.

Thanks to onerous newsprint tariffs that the Trump administration is proposing to enact, the price of producing The Riverdale Press — and most other newspapers across the country, including others that are part of Herald Community Newspapers — could soon get a whole lot higher.

Steel and aluminum tariffs recently grabbed headlines, but there are a host of other tariffs President Trump is seeking to impose, including on goods like newsprint, purchased from allies like Canada.

The commerce department has announced plans to increase duties on Canadian newsprint by as much as 32 percent. The move is intended to punish Canada for undercutting prices charged by American paper producers — of which there are relatively few compared with Canada. A single newsprint mill in Washington state, owned by a New York hedge fund, supports the measure — but nearly all other American paper suppliers oppose it.

Most community newspapers operate on budgets with razor-thin profit margins — if they’re turning profits at all. Raising the price of newsprint to fulfill a protectionist agenda and placate an angry political base could have a crippling effect on an industry that has existed on the North American continent for three centuries. Yes, the first community newspapers were founded her before the United States was born.

The punitive tariffs proposed by the administration would sure hurt American newspapers — particularly community papers — far more than it would hurt Canadian paper suppliers, which are supported by subsidies from the Canadian government. American newspapers have never received subsidies.

If the newsprint tariff were enacted, papers would likely be forced to reduce staff, scale back coverage of critical issues, raise prices, limit distribution, or all of the above. Newspapers, already battered by the internet, would suffer, but so would readers and advertisers.

The proposed tariff would be, as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Tampa Bay Times put it in an editorial, “a kick in the teeth.”

Newspaper expansion brings with it greater economic activity — including more jobs, not only for reporters in the newsroom, but also in sales and production. More jobs means a bigger tax base to maintain our roads and educate our children.

Most historians agree that the Great Depression was caused, in part, by the short-sighted imposition of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which raised tariffs on some 20,000 goods — and which, ironically, was intended to protect American workers. Trump’s drive to impose tariffs might not trigger a second Great Depression, but it could lead many to lose their jobs and their livelihoods, including in the news industry.

Trump regularly rails against newspapers, calling what we produce “fake news.” It isn’t, of course. As journalists, we follow the discipline of verification in order to get the story right and inform our readers about what’s happening in their neighborhoods. The nation’s founders saw newspapers as essential to the maintenance of democracy.

Trump, it appears, does not, and that’s why we believe he has been at war with the industry from the get-go.

What Trump so easily forgets is that people produce newspapers — people who are just trying to do their jobs, and who have families to feed and house.

So we are making an unusual appeal to our readers to speak up on our behalf. If you love your community newspaper, now is the time to act. Call or email your congressional representatives and ask them to fight the proposed new tariff on Canadian newsprint.

“This is a moment when a national issue has deep, dark local resonance,” The Suffolk Times noted in a recent editorial on the planned tariffs. “Community journalism is essential for a healthy community — and we need all the help we can get to do our jobs.”