EDITORIAL: PRINT Act needs to pass
Newspapers have played a key role in the foundation and history of this great nation. They inform, motivate, record and tell the stories of the communities they serve. Throughout history newspapers have played a vital role in who we are as a nation.
Leading up to America’s split the Great Britain it was newspaper like The Boston Gazette, The South Carolina Gazette, The Massachusetts Spy, and others who reported the abuses of power and stripping of rights by those ruling across the sea. The Boston Gazette reported on the arguments over taxes, the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party. The Gazette also became the mouthpiece for one of America’s founding fathers, Samuel Adams.
On Oct. 31, 1765 The Pennsylvania Journal pounded home their view of British actions by redesigning their front page to look like a tombstone. The message to readers was that the Brits were destroying American rights.
Over the years newspapers have carried the stories of the storming of the beaches on D-Day, the fall of Saigon, the stories of heroes on 9/11, the hometown Friday night heroes or helping a young lady find a kidney transplant. Newspapers tell the stories of our lives, move us to attack and keep us informed.
If the presses stopped America would lose out.
During the Revolutionary War the South Carolina Gazette had to stop printing occasionally because of the conflict. Today, many newspapers are struggling to keep the presses running in part because of a tariff on newsprint coming out of Canada. Most newsprint comes across the northern border from Canada. American paper mills do not and have no desire to, produce enough newsprint to keep American presses running.
So why implement the new tariff?
It is not an attack on the press by President Donald Trump; instead it is the action of one newsprint mill in the Pacific Northwest: Norpac. This mill is claiming the imported Canadian paper is harming the U.S. newsprint market, yet the U.S. does not and cannot supply all the demand across the country.
A tariff, as high as 32 percent, is currently being imposed on imported uncoated groundwood paper from Canada. This paper is the primary source of newsprint and other paper used by domestic newspapers, book publishers and commercial printers.
The tariff has driven up the cost of newsprint and hurt the bottom line of small and large dailies and weekly newspapers across America. There is hope for relief.
A group of wise congressmen and women who understand the importance newspaper play in the fabric of this great county, printers and publishers could gain some protection.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) introduced S. 2385, the PRINT Act. The bill has been co-sponsored by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
The PRINT Act would suspend the new tariff; require the Department of Commerce to review the economic health of the printing and publishing industries.
If not passed presses, especially smaller weekly publications in rural areas, could be silenced.
Imagine a world without any local, community newspapers. A world where your only source of news is social media with only a few super large newspapers, television and radio stations. Imagine no more coverage of high school sports, city council meetings, what is happening at your local library or the story of your neighbor’s battle with cancer.
The Commerce Department is expected to give a final decision on this foolish, unneeded tariff on Aug. 2. Until then the PRINT Act will pause both the preliminary and final duties while the department completes its study.
On Aug. 2 the department should wisely do away with this tariff and allow newspapers all across this land to continue telling their community’s stories.