Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Publishers relieved tariffs on newsprint lifted

by Joe Siegel

Last month, the United States International Trade Commission overturned a Trump Administration decision to impose tariffs on Canadian newsprint, saying that American paper producers are not harmed by newsprint imports.

According to the New York Times: “The unanimous decision by the five-member body eliminates tariffs that have been in effect since January, handing a win to small and medium-size newspapers, which have struggled to absorb the cost of higher newsprint and have made cuts, including layoffs, as a result.”

The U.S. Commerce Department imposed tariffs as high as 20 percent on newsprint from Canada after the North Pacific Paper Company, a paper mill in Washington State, filed a complaint alleging that subsidies that the Canadian government provides to its manufacturers put American paper companies at a disadvantage.

The commission, which is an American government agency that reviews unfair trade practices, said in a statement that it “determined that a U.S. industry is not materially injured or threatened with material injury by reason of imports of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada.”

Details of the commission’s findings will be published by Oct. 8, the statement said.

Small and medium-sized newspapers in the U.S., including many LGBT media outlets, had been worried about a price increase on newsprint. But since the tariffs have been lifted, Lynne Brown, publisher of the Washington Blade, e-mailed several LGBT editors, urging them not to let their printers “bully” them into a price increase.

LGBT editors and publishers weighed in on the tariffs and the impact on their publications.

“Just before [the tariffs] were put in place, we switched printers and locked in our prices so the tariffs wouldn't increase our price,” said Rick Claggett, owner, publisher and editor of Orlando-based Watermark Media. “If printers are still charging higher prices even though the tariffs were reversed, well I think they should reevaluate their business practices. I certainly would not use a printer that did that.”

“We have had two increases in the last eight months totalling 13 percent,” added Tim Boyd, editor of Georgia Voice.

“We are certainly happy that the recent pricing increase related to the tariffs should be coming down soon, and hope that these manufactured trade wars will soon end,” said Tracy Baim, editor of Chicago’s Windy City Times.

Jim Yarbrough, publisher of Charlotte, N.C.-based QNotes, wrote in his newspaper’s August 10 issue that he had planned to “switch away from the old, gray newsprint to a brighter, whiter, heavier-stock paper.” However, Trump’s tariffs “stopped us from moving forward” with this change. But “we hope to revisit” the planned switch.

Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, wrote an editorial last month called, “Tariffs hurt journalism.”

“I thought Trump stated that he wanted to bring jobs to this country. There are only five plants in the U.S. that make this form of paper, and they cannot print enough for all newspapers,” wrote Segal. “Rather than create jobs, this tariff will take away jobs. There are many newspapers in this nation that are already on a financial thin line, cannot absorb that additional cost and will go under. What about those jobs, Mr. President? And let’s not forget that stamping out the media is censorship.”

Todd Evans, CEO of Rivendell Media as well as publisher of Press Pass Q, said he hopes this issue “does not suppress print circulation for it seems to me the demand from the LGBT community is strong with a print presence being a part of the communities’ visibility. Print circulation was again up this year and I can think of no other niche media where this is true, so I would hate to see it forced down at a time when we need the news - by and for our community - more than ever.”

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