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home : most recent : statewide implications December 11, 2018

4/10/2018 11:39:00 AM
EDITORIAL: Tariff could put more newspapers out of business


You’ve likely read about tariff threats and a pending trade war with China.

One tariff already imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce could have a serious impact on a Bloomington business.

Ours. The Herald-Times.

This tariff targets Canada, not China. And the pain of this tax on imported goods aimed at the Canadian newsprint industry would be far from limited to us, of course. Various estimates say it would add 10, 20 or even 30 percent to the price paid for a major chunk of newsprint consumed in this country. It’s an action sought by just one U.S. company that would affect nearly 2,000 newspapers including the New York Times, The Washington Post and others loathed by the president and other politicians because they have the goal of telling the truth about federal government officials and what they do.

The tariff will also affect the other 1,900-plus small community newspapers that focus on their local schools, town councils and charitable causes.

The Department of Commerce imposed two preliminary tariffs at the beginning of the year; the decision on whether to make them permanent is scheduled for this summer.

While the New York Times spent an estimated $72 million last year on newsprint, meaning the tariff will add millions in extra expense, industry leaders believe the biggest negative harm will fall on communities with newspapers that don’t have the resources of the Times.

Here’s a quote from Paul Boyle, senior vice president of public policy at the Arlington, Virginia-based News Media Alliance: “It’s a killer. In some cases, you’re going to see smaller newspapers go out of business.”

The newspapers that make up the Hoosier Times group — The Herald-Times as well as publications in Bedford, Martinsville, Mooresville, Ellettsville, Spencer, Clay City and Cloverdale, estimated an annual expense of $1,263,000 for 2018. The increases being discussed would raise that number by roughly $125,000 to more than $375,000.

Here’s the view of Paul Tash, chairman and CEO of the Times Publishing Co. in St. Petersburg, Florida. He’s an Indiana University graduate who will be IU’s undergraduate commencement speaker in May.

“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.” That, too, would hurt readers because less news would be covered.

He asked those reading his column to ask members of Congress to repeal these tariffs because they will hurt not just news organizations, but readers, citizens and entire communities.

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