djr-2018-03-29-news-tariffp2

Clay Foster, publisher and CEO of Journal Inc., stands next to rolls of newsprint at the company's printing facility in Tupelo, where the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 15 weekly newspapers and a number of other products are printed.

There’s been a lot of attention by media sources of late on tariffs the government has placed on items like steel and aluminum on countries like China, and the threat of retaliation and the impact it could have on soybeans and other U.S. exports, as well as items produced and sold locally. What is less well known and publicized is the impact tariffs are having on our own business – newspaper publishing.

Our two largest expenses are payroll and newsprint. Since October of last year, we’ve absorbed newsprint price increases of over 30 percent. Now, the U.S. government is placing tariffs on newsprint imported from Canada or produced by Canadian mills located in the U.S. The result is an increase in the price paid for newsprint of over $200 per ton in only a matter of months. The annualized impact is several hundred thousand dollars of additional costs for Journal Inc. That’s an extremely challenging increase to absorb for any business.

We’re all for fair trade practices at Journal Inc., but this is not about fair trade. A single U.S. newsprint mill in the state of Washington owned by a private investment group successfully petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce to apply these tariffs and related penalties to Canadian newsprint simply to improve its bottom line. The result will be unwarranted damage to an industry that is already challenged. The benefits to one U.S. newsprint mill and private investment group pale in comparison to the risk of threatening over 600,000 U.S. jobs impacted either directly or indirectly.

We understand not everyone reads a newspaper these days, which is why in addition to the largest privately owned daily newspaper in the state of Mississippi along with about 15 weekly newspapers, we have a strong and growing online presence that, combined with print, reaches an audience that is larger than at any other time in our company’s history. That audience is large and growing because the news and information we provide on a daily basis is relevant and of value. We understand that a community is defined by its members and a shared sense of belonging. We believe the local newspapers we produce are and should be instrumental in developing community. What’s important is local content that comes close to people’s homes and lives, stories that readers simply must read and stories they want to read, news local residents can’t live without, news that enlightens their lives and news that brightens their days.

The distinguishing characteristic of a strong community newspaper organization like Journal Inc. is its commitment to serving the information needs of the community it serves. We remain committed to that responsibility, but these tariffs threaten that commitment, our public service responsibility and the First Amendment.

Our economy has been strong for several months now, with lower taxes, more jobs and fewer regulations. Protectionist measures like tariffs – especially when they have nothing to do with fair trade – threaten to undo much of the progress. Why risk slowing the progress?

If you believe that local news and information that matters and that makes a difference in people’s lives is important, I encourage you to contact our members of Congress and let them know why this is important not just for the Journal, but more importantly for the continued growth and development of our communities.

Clay Foster is publisher and CEO of Journal Inc. Readers can contact him at (662) 842-2611.

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