Trade policies just made newspaper more expensive. So what’s next?

These are print newspapers. They're good for democracy, but they just got a bit more pricey.

These are print newspapers. They're good for democracy, but they just got a bit more pricey.

These are print newspapers. They're good for democracy, but they just got a bit more pricey.

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Admittedly, we here at the Perspective usually enjoy reporting the news from a perch of objectivity and detachedness.
We’ve never had to cover a murder or a national disaster, but we’ve commented upon significant and high-profile cases of each of these, and we’ve managed to retain our objectivity out of simple advantage.

We never went through a Hurricane Katrina here in Illinois, so when commenting on recent efforts in New Orleans to prepare for future weather calamities, we were able to rationally investigate the issue without getting personally involved.

We never witnessed hazing up close and personal, so when we cover Greek issues in colleges Lancers may or may not attend, we can do so with balance, since we don’t actually have any immediate skin in the game.

But our objectivity took a hit last month, when our printers told us they’d be increasing the price of running our newspaper because of a recent crackdown on newsprint imports.

In early April, the International Trade Administration enacted anti-dumping duties on Canadian imports of newspaper. The Trump administration, under the direction of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, set the tariffs at 10 percent, claiming that, because the Canadian government subsidizes its own paper production, this puts U.S. businesses at a disadvantage. The U.S. imported $1.6 billion in paper from Canada in 2016, according to CNN Money.

Okay, it’s probably time to address a few things before we come to the point:

–Until this happened, we had no idea where our paper was actually coming from. If you’d asked us to sit down and think about it, yeah, we probably would have decided the pulp wasn’t coming from the Redwood Forest in California, or whatever’s left of the foliage in the Rocky Mountains or the West Coast. But since NAFTA was passed in 1994, Canada and the U.S. have been doing business with each other on wood pulp, and one of the benefits (so far as we can tell) was a cheaper price for the school newspaper.

–We’re willing to bet a sizable number of people who happen to read this might be thinking “So what? Print is dead.” We disagree. Setting aside the fact that reading on a device is much harder to maintain without distraction; setting aside the fact that a passive medium like a newspaper or print book isn’t going to throw ads and Twitter notifications at you every ten minutes, making it a more valuable resource than a Kindle or iPad; setting aside the fact that newspaper readers are hard core newspaper readers who want ink on their fingers as they page through the Op Eds; setting aside all that, let’s just point out an incontrovertible fact. News readers are news junkies. They want print; they get print. Maybe not every day, but that Sunday paper isn’t the same if you’re scrolling through it.

Maybe Ross is correct and Canada has been taking us to the cleaners by subsidizing their own paper production. Maybe Forbes, Bloomberg, Press Herald and CNN are correct and this will hammer an already besieged profession.

Fewer and fewer people are subscribing to newspapers, but those who do want their news local, so they can hand the issue around the breakfast table or tape up their kid’s soccer scores when they’re reprinted in the Daily Herald. We can’t say for sure.
But one thing is certain: the U.S. political arena, previously a spectacle for us to gawk at and opine upon in certain opinion pieces, just became real. It hit Lake Park personally.

We’re willing to bet this won’t be the last time. We have some ideas on what we’d like to do about it.

But now seems like a really good time for all of us to wake up and stop pretending that none of the bustle of Washington D.C. affects us in our communities, our classrooms, our schools…or our school papers.

It’s real. It matters. Get involved and pay attention.

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Trade policies just made newspaper more expensive. So what’s next?