Editorial: Trumps tariffs are bound to hurt us — and you

Community newspapers have a great many responsibilities, and one is to take national issues and make them relevant to local readers — to “bring home” a bigger issue to show exactly how it will affect the residents of the community it serves. This time, that’s easy. There’s a move afoot in Washington, D.C., that will have a deleterious effect on this news organization — and thus on anyone reading this.

President Donald Trump was swept into office on a campaign platform that included a more aggressive trade strategy. In recent weeks, he has begun to implement that strategy by announcing planned tariffs on goods obtained from trading partners all over the globe. The headlines have been grabbed by steel and aluminum, but there are a host of others — including proposed new tariffs on goods purchased from longtime allies like Canada.

Those goods include the very paper used by newspapers for their print editions. The Department of Commerce has announced plans for duties of as much as 32 percent on newsprint from Canada, a major source for U.S. newspapers. It’s meant to be an “anti-dumping” measure to punish Canada for undercutting prices charged by American paper producers. A single newsprint mill in Washington State, owned by a New York-based hedge fund, has supported the measure — but virtually every other American paper supplier has opposed it.

The reason: grim economics. The tariffs will raise the price of imported newsprint, and that would be a substantial hit to newspapers like the one you’re reading now. Many community news organizations are already operating on a razor’s edge, already tangling with the harsh reality of consumers who are moving steadily away from print news and toward digital sources. But print revenues are what keeps most organizations afloat — and a significant hike in the cost of the very medium they print on could be a death knell for some. Ultimately, that will reduce the number of buyers of newsprint — and suppliers know it.

The news industry isn’t one that tends to curry favor with this president. But community newspapers enjoy a close connection with their readers, so we take our case directly to you. In fact, the Press News Group, Times Review Newspapers and The Sag Harbor Express are taking an unusual step by running a common editorial to do just that. We — and many other Long Island newspapers — publish at the same facility, buy our newsprint there, are buffeted by the same recessions and fiscal challenges and still strive to do what we do in the best way possible for our readers.

This punitive duty will hurt us more than even its intended targets. A hike of 20 to 30 percent in printing costs will be crushing. It will mean having to scale back in various areas, raising prices, cutting back on distribution. The news organizations will suffer, but so will readers and advertisers. Newspapers on the East End are blessed with a bit more stability than most because of the robust economic drivers here, but some communities will lose their newspapers altogether. It is, as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Tampa Bay Times put it in an editorial, “a kick in the teeth.”

We ask our readers to help us kick back. Call your representatives in Congress and ask them to fight the proposed new tariff on Canadian newsprint. They can also pressure the International Trade Commission to stop this.

This is a moment when a national issue has deep, dark local resonance. Community journalism is essential for a healthy community — and we need all the help we can get to do our jobs. If that’s important to you, please speak up now.