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Col­legian News­papers (photo: Hillsdale.edu)

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.