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These tariffs hit close to home

While much ado has been made about President Trump’s use of tariffs to help the American steel and aluminum industries, another less-publicized tariff could impact the very newspaper you hold in your hands.

Much of the newspaper industry is still recovering from the recession while also adapting to the onslaught of digital media. Now, a new challenge imposed by our own government is forcing us to tighten our belts another notch.

The American newspaper industry is facing skyrocketing newsprint costs thanks to the Department of Commerce placing duties on imports of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada. These tariffs are already being collected at the border and Canadian newsprint manufacturers are responding by raising prices on newspaper publishers as much as 30 percent.

Newspapers remain vital civic assets — nobody else will report on your community with the depth and breadth of a newspaper — but publishing them is not an easy business, and these tariffs will make it even harder. This is a kick in the teeth.

These tariffs will hurt our readers because they create pressure to raise our prices, and they will force publishers to re-examine every other expense. Maybe we will drop some puzzles and comics — no big deal unless we cut one that is your favorite.

These tariffs will also hurt our employees because payroll is the only expense that is bigger than newsprint. To help offset the extra expense of paper, publishers will eliminate jobs. Make no mistake: These tariffs will cause layoffs across American newspapers, including this one.

These tariffs started with a single American newsprint manufacturer who complained that Canadian companies were “dumping” their product in the U.S. at below-market prices. In the current political climate, that complaint found a friendly ear in Washington.

Other American manufacturers opposed these tariffs because they know they will damage newspapers and reduce the demand for newsprint. But now that the tariffs are taking effect, the American companies are hiking their own prices, so we have little room to shop around.

Demand for newsprint had already dropped 75 percent since 2000 in North America as more papers, often small-town ones like ours, reduced print editions, switched to digital-only delivery or closed altogether.

As with other economic wars on certain industries, this one will impact small community newspapers and small businesses that depend on print advertising.

Why should you care?

A new study by Pew Research Center reveals the most civically engaged citizens are those that use and value local news. Those who are less civically engaged don’t care to read local news and are, therefore, less informed.

The equation is simple: Less news and less-engaged citizens equals less oversight of our local elected officials.

We humbly ask our readers to contact their elected representatives in Austin and Washington, D.C. and make them aware of the issue.

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