Tariffs threaten newspaper industry

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Tariffs are threatening an already endangered industry. Taxes on newspaper print bought in Canada could put some publishers out of business.

In November, the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission implemented the tariff in response to a complaint by an American company alleging the Canadian paper sellers are able to offer the product at a cheaper rate because of government subsidies.

"We have had about a 20 percent increase on our newsprint since November," said Letti Lister, publisher of the Black Hills Pioneer. "We just had another increase in the last few weeks here and if the full request goes through we will see an increase of 50 percent on our newsprint just through tariffs."

The printing machines at Black Hills Pioneer provides services to six other papers in the region and since they buy their paper almost exclusively from a Canadian company in Manitoba, they're shouldering the full brunt of the additional taxes.

"That impacts a load of paper by anywhere from $4,000-6,000 per load. So we're looking at just under a $100,000 of increased pricing for us," Lister said.

Right now, Black Hills Pioneer is absorbing the addition costs instead of passing it on to the other newspapers, but that could change depending on what happens on July 17 when another round of tariff hikes could be implemented. Lister said when the final duty is set, they will need to pass along the cost.

"Some of those smaller papers are saying that they may have to completely shut down because they won't be able to absorb that kind of a cost increase," Lister said. "It will definitively change the face of newspaper."

Which she see as a major problem for getting news and information to the public.

"The function that we provide, that we have always provided, and that we will continue to provide is a watchdog for small communities.If we aren't here to cover it, no one will."

The tariffs were not pushed by President Donald Trump, but rather the international trade commission and the United States Department of Commerce.

A petition to reverse the tariffs is currently circulating: Stop Tariffs on Printers and Publishers