Newsprint tariffs threaten the printed word

The Times-Republican has been providing news coverage important to Central Iowa readers for more than 160 years.

Before the internet.

Before television.

Before radio.

Even before the Civil War.

The newspaper has been around for a long time telling the story of Marshalltown and Central Iowa.

Having a newspaper is vital to the communities it serves and a having a free press helps preserve and protect freedom — so much so, the First Amendment to the Constitution protects free speech and the freedom of the press.

And so, the Times-Republican takes its role of defending the First Amendment and informing its readers through the printed word very seriously.

Yet, even though the internet has provided newspapers the opportunity to distribute its newspaper digitally and some of our readers don’t read the paper in print, most online newspapers would not survive on their own if they did not have the printed version of the newspaper to make the newspaper economically viable.

These facts are all important because the paper this newspaper 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 this newspaper about 50 percent more expensive.

This small mill has complained to the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission about international competition. If it succeeds, the prices of newspaper printing will skyrocket. The resources available for everything else your local newspaper may need or want to do for you 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. More than a dozen U.S. mills have stopped making newsprint in the last decade because demand for paper has declined.

Today, even if Canadian paper disappeared because of the high tariffs being proposed to the federal government, the U.S. paper mills could not supply newspapers with the paper they need. Mills cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and can take many years to be safely situated in compliance with environmental rules. With demand falling, no one is going to invest in a massive expansion of U.S. newsprint. Over the short term, tariffs could force the price of paper up and the New York investors who own the Washington State mill could gain.

But our country will lose.

Fragile newspapers will vanish.

Challenged newspapers will have to cut back.

Even healthy newspapers, such as the Times-Republican, are going to have to find ways to absorb a daunting new cost.

And who will pay?

Everyone who relies on a newspaper to tell local stories, cover elections, advertise sales, get pictures of the winning touchdown and cheer on the economic development leaders who are creating new jobs.

At the Times-Republican, we are not just concerned about our own newspaper and the escalating costs due to these tariffs, we also print papers for 65 other newspaper companies in 28 counties in Iowa.

Many of these newspapers cover small towns where the only voice for that community is the local newspaper. We worry about our paper as well as those 65 other newspapers we print.

If you would like to make a difference, consider sending a letter to your federal legislators and urge them to ask the Department of Commerce to reconsider these