EDITORIAL: Two tariffs on Canadian newsprint threaten good journalism

SHARE EDITORIAL: Two tariffs on Canadian newsprint threaten good journalism

In 1944, rolls of newsprint, fresh from a mill, await export on the Powell River in British Columbia, Canada. / Photo/ Sun-Times archives

Allow us to explain, from firsthand experience, how a tariff can go wrong, threatening American jobs and leaving a city — our city — the poorer for it.

If you are reading this editorial in the paper version of the Sun-Times, as opposed to online, the newsprint you are holding likely was produced in Canada. Much of the newsprint used in the United States is imported from north of the border. There isn’t enough produced domestically to meet the demand.


But beginning this year, the Department of Commerce has imposed two preliminary tariffs — taxes on imported goods — that could eventually increase the price of Canadian newsprint by as much as 32 percent. This summer, the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission will decide whether to make the tariffs permanent.

As you can imagine, the tariffs already have created a heavy new financial burden on American newspapers, which are struggling in the age of the Internet. Newsprint is among a newspaper’s biggest expenses. If the tariffs are made permanent, the quality of American newspapers will be diminished. Inevitably, some will fold.

As Sam R. Fisher, president of the Illinois Press Association, sums it up: “Sadly, the country will lose as local newspaper employees will be impacted, and those people, events and issues that newspapers report on will lose as well.”

The tariffs might be justified if they protected other American jobs, but they do not. Just one American producer of newsprint, based in Washington state, brought the original complaint to the Commerce Department alleging that paper producers in Canada have an unfair advantage over U.S. competitors. That complaint led to the preliminary tariffs.

No other American paper mill has joined the complaint. On the contrary, the other American mills are generally of the view that the tariffs will do harm to newspapers and ultimately reduce the demand for newsprint. The demand for newsprint in North America already has declined 75 percent since 2000.

If you value good local journalism — if you value, that is to say, the work of the Sun-Times and every other paper in town — we urge you to contact your representatives in Congress and the Senate and ask them to oppose making these tariffs permanent.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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