A Small Victory Can Mean Big Relief

Published: September 06, 2018 at 04:30 pm


It is a small victory in the news world, but one that may bring relief to some community newspapers that have been struggling under tariffs temporarily imposed this past year on Canadian imports of uncoated groundwood paper — that which is used to make newsprint.

On August 29, the International Trade Commission (ITC) unanimously determined that it is not the import of this Canadian product that is harming the newspaper industry in the United States. The tariffs, which were as high as 20 percent, after an initial revision, created huge cost increases for small newspapers in this country — cost increases for an industry already struggling with the true reason harm has occurred: the rise of digital news drawing readership over that of printed newspapers (meaning less need for newsprint and decreased production of that newsprint suitable for newspapers) and subsequent loss of print advertising.

As we mentioned in our April 6, 2018 editorial, “A Troubling Tariff For The News Industry,” The Newtown Bee at that time had already seen an increase of 11 percent in the cost of newsprint, with fears then that the trend would continue upward to 36 percent. Coupled with our paper being allocated only certain months in which to buy paper, an inventory nightmare of sorts, the belt tightening had reached a painful level.

What a relief to anticipate unbuckling that belt a notch, though we recognize this does not take us out of the woods yet: a market shortage has been created in the meantime by the export of newsprint quality paper to countries overseas.

While The Newtown Bee has been able to continue on in the broadsheet form so familiar to our print readers and has avoided layoffs, we are aware this has not been so for other small newspapers across the nation. The ITC tariff was the final letter in the hangman game for several community editions, which discontinued publication entirely or moved to a digital-only format.

We have said it before, and we will say it again: local papers create jobs and are critical to an educated public. The community newspaper is crucial to a well-informed public.

The recent updating of our website, newtownbee.com, is a nod to the reality that news in the digital form is desired by many in today’s society. We go forward with the intent to eventually provide all of the print information via our website, but we do remain true to those readers who appreciate the more leisurely digestion of the news: that delivered each week, printed on big sheets of paper that fold out across the table, floor, deck — wherever classic readers choose to read. The lessened worry of tariff-driven prices for newsprint means our readers can rest assured that the printed word will continue to flow from our presses.

We are pleased that the ITC has seen the light and removed the arrow from the quiver that aimed to pierce what was left of the community newspaper industry.

Our work continues to bring the news of Newtown to our readers, online and in print, without sacrificing quality, content — or our very existence.

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