No doubt, The Elsberry Democrat is important to it’s readers. Always has been. It is important for all sorts of newspapers to survive for the sake of a free society-the very large and the very small ones, the liberal ones, the conservative ones, the middle-of-the-road ones, the ones with no viewpoint but just important news-all of them. America needs a free press like we need oxygen.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
The point of this column is to point out that the paper The Elsberry Democrat is printed on is under attack. One small paper mill in Washington State is trying to use the federal trade and tariff laws to make newsprint about 50 percent more expensive. This mill complained to the U.S. Department of Commerce concerning unfair international competition. If they succeed, the prices of newspaper printing will skyrocket. The resources The Elsberry Democrat needs to do a good job reporting community news (reporters, photographers, new technology, etc.) will be strangled.
Canadian paper producers have supplied the U.S. for many years. They have some natural advantages over U.S. papermakers because of hydroelectric power and shipping costs. Today, even if Canadian paper disappeared from the market because of the proposed high tariffs, the U.S. paper mills could not supply newspapers with the paper required. Mills cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and can take many years to “come on line”. No one can invest in a massive expansion of U.S. newsprint. Over the short term, tariffs will force the price of all paper up and as a result the only winners will be the New York investors who own the Washington State mill.
But Elsberry and the rest of the country will lose. Fragile newspapers will vanish. Challenged newspapers will have to cut back. Even healthy newspapers are going to have to find ways to absorb a daunting new cost.
Who will pay? Everyone who relies on a newspaper to tell the local stories, cover elections, advertise sales, get pictures of the winning touchdown, and cheer the economic development people on in their work of creating new jobs.
This worries me greatly, not only because newspaper publishing is my livelihood, but also it will deliver a massive body blow to the 1st Amendment.
Newspaper readers should visit www.stopnewsprinttariffs.org to learn the details of this attack on a free press. Communicate your opposition to the tariffs to federal lawmakers.
Tell them to keep the presses rolling!