Upon a complaint from a single paper mill in Washington state, the U.S. Commerce Department placed tariffs of up to 10 percent on Canadian paper last month. In choosing to protect one industry over another, the U.S. government is smacking the already struggling newspaper market, as 90 percent of all newsprint in the Northeast and Midwest come from Canada, according to a study cited by CNN.
Newsprint costs for local newspapers, such as The Collegian and The Hillsdale Daily News, have increased between 13 and 15 percent as a result of the tariff. Matt Davison, publisher and president of the Idaho Press-Tribune, told Bloomberg News he believes these tariffs could have a “catastrophic impact on community journalism.”
In a bipartisan letter published after the announcement of the tariff, U.S. senators argued that Canadian paper helps support more than 600,000 U.S. jobs in newspaper publishing and commercial printing industries alone. The impact, however, will be more widespread than this.
Local news plays a vital role in the community. Stories that may not garner any regional or national attention may be of utmost importance to smaller audiences, such as the description of a suspect in a string of neighborhood burglaries or the details of a fundraiser for a local family made homeless by a fire. Newsprint tariffs squeeze the already tight margins of the papers that report local stories, restricting the accessibility and freedom of local news.
Even with the increased cost of paper-made goods aside, these tariffs do more to hurt the average American than they do to help them. Freedom and accessibility of the press are fundamental principles of this nation, and the government must work to protect them, rather than bind them.