Another threat to the free press

File photo ©

Another threat to the free press


Newspapers—our vessels of free speech—are under attack. They will need to be defended if the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution still has reverence in this country.

Here’s what’s happening: Over the past couple of years, the press has been able to rise above the harmful moniker “fake news,” frequently touted by President Trump.  However, earlier this year, the industry was dealt another, more significant blow—this one by the U.S. Department of Commerce when they imposed tariffs as high as 32 percent on Canadian newsprint, which is the primary supplier to U.S. publications. Though the tariffs have been lowered recently to around 17 percent, they will remain in effect as the department and the International Trade Commission completes an investigation on whether Canada is unfairly undercutting the U.S. suppliers or is being subsidized. Keep in mind only one U.S. supplier, North Pacific Paper Company, complained. Interestingly, the industry organization for U.S. paper suppliers, the American Forest and Paper Association, does not support NORPAC’s claim. And reportedly, the other U.S. suppliers are already producing at near capacity with no intention to expand. 

A final determination on this investigation is due in September. Depending on the results, the tariffs could go higher, or perhaps lower. In this political climate, though, where journalists have unjustly come under fire, were we to guess on an outcome, we could probably bank on one that would not bode well for the newspaper industry. And that would be a travesty. 

These higher tariffs pose a threat to all newspapers, but more so to the smaller, weekly community publications such as this one, where the profit margins are already a lot less. It could result in higher costs for subscribers, staff reductions, and a lot smaller newspapers, heaven forbid. 

Smaller papers would mean there would be little to no space for public announcements such as the student achievement column, nor the space given gratis to not-for-profit organizations that do not have the funding to pay for advertisements. It means the popular Years Ago column that compiles from our historical archives would have to go, as will our features highlighting the amazing people who reside in our reader areas. It means pertinent information regarding town government and school districts, including publishing sports photos, would be somewhat sacrificed, too. These are all the small but significant features that set our community newspaper apart from the larger dailies, which, by the way, will have to make their own sacrifices as well.

A bill that was introduced in the U.S. Senate in May, the Print Act of 2018 (S.2835), is aimed at suspending tariffs until a decision is made. However, that hasn’t gone anywhere and here we are with less than a month before the final decision.

Call your elected federal officials and let them know these tariffs, which punish hardworking journalists and the well-respected newspaper industry, should be removed immediately. Do that, because let’s face it; basically, this is just another attempt to silence a free press—the voice of the people.