Last month, the U.S. Department of Commerce dealt a heavy blow to community newspapers in the form of steep tariffs on the North American paper supply.

As you may have read in this newspaper, these tariffs imperil not just the news gathering we do here at Jackson County Sentinel, but also put in jeopardy the direct support we are able to offer community causes in the form of promoting events and ideas within our news pages, as well as financial sponsorships and other partnerships that benefit the community.

For example, we appreciate the opportunity to sponsor events such as Friday’s IMPACT Learning Center’s Low Country Luau. We also purchase advertising in area school yearbooks and signs on the fences of our community’s youth sports fields. These are just a few examples of ways we give back to our community.

Paper and payroll are our largest operational costs, and if these tariffs are made permanent there is no doubt there will be job losses at newspaper companies across America, and some papers will shutter as a result. Although we do have digital products, more than 90 percent of our revenue continues to be derived from print.

For now, these tariffs are temporary, while the case is reviewed by the International Trade Commission (ITC). Still, they range up to 32 percent of the cost of paper, and they are causing a disruption in service that has threatened supply and driven costs up even beyond the actual tariffs themselves.

This all stems from a complaint by one company — North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC) in Longview, Washington — which is an outlier in the paper industry that we see as using the U.S. government for its own financial gain, putting thousands of American jobs in jeopardy as a result.

To understand how the current 32 percent tariff is affecting real jobs in Jackson County, please consider the following.

Newsprint, sold in increments of tons, have seen costs rise from just under $600 per ton to more than $800 per ton.

Last year, the Sentinel required approximately 450 tons of newsprint to produce Jackson County’s newspaper and the eight other community newspapers that print in Scottsboro. The effects of these tariffs represent a nearly $100,000 increase to material expenses for our operation that employs more than 30 people in Jackson County.

We have already been forced to hold open three positions in an effort to recover that $100,000 increase in material expenses.

It is important to note, that the Sentinel purchases American-made newsprint, produced in Grenada, Mississippi. But the tariffs have shocked the market in such a way that the unintended consequences are hurting the entire industry.

Here’s how you can help.

Publishers like us need friends like you who will reach out to our elected officials on our behalf. Members of Congress can express their concerns by submitting comments to the ITC about the impact of these tariffs on constituents.

Write a letter, ask your local officials to make contact with others, ask the local municipalities to issue a proclamation. These things matter when trying to get the attention of legislators in Washington, D.C.

Our goal is that our members of Congress will petition the ITC to inform them that the newsprint trade case has and will continue to cause unintended consequences that will harm our economy and local community, and should be rejected.

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) did that on Wednesday this week.

“Local newspapers are an essential component of the communities they serve, both as the primary distributor of regional news and advertisements for small business,” wrote Sen. Jones. “I urge Secretary Ross to evaluate these tariffs soon before they force our small-town Alabama media outlets to cut jobs, local media coverage, or both.”

This isn’t a partisan issue, either. Last fall, a bipartisan letter penned by Representatives Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga, TN) and Jamie Raskin (D-Rockville, MD) urged the ITC to deny NORPAC’s petition.

“Because of the material negative impacts of a trade remedy on the domestic U.S. newspaper industry and the 175,000 U.S. jobs at stake, we respectfully urge the Commission to deny the petitions,” they wrote.

I’d very much appreciate it if you would be so kind as to take a few minutes and contact the legislators in your network and ask them to oppose these tariffs in writing to the International Trade Commission (ITC). Please ask your friends to do so as well.

Thank you for your support of community journalism.

Brandon Cox is the editor and publisher of the Sentinel. He can be reached by email to brandon.cox@jcsentinel.com. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonJCox.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.