EASLEY — The Sentinel-Progress is increasing rack and subscription sale prices from 50 cents to $1 effective June 2. Current in-county home delivery subscribers will see no change in their bill until it comes time for renewal, at which point it will rise from the current price of $45 per year to $55.
The increase stems largely from newly instituted tariffs on newsprint.
Since the first of the year, the Commerce Department has imposed steep tariffs — of up to 32 percent — on newsprint imported from Canada.
“While that’s boosting profits for the five remaining U.S. newsprint mills, the preliminary tariffs have raised prices nationwide and triggered something of a crisis in an already troubled industry,” reported NPR on April 19.
Here’s the thing: they’re not wrong.
It’s no secret that the Internet has taken a huge toll on newspapers — ad sales and subscriptions have been falling for years. Now, there’s a new problem — the actual paper newspapers are printed on just got more expensive.
Much, much more.
“See, there are two things you need to know about newspapers,” writes Susan Rowell, president of the National Newspaper Association. “Newspapers are important to community life and democracy. Always have been. We at the National Newspaper Association think it is important for all sorts of newspapers to survive for the sake of a free society — the very large and the very small ones, the liberal ones, the conservative ones, the middle-of-the-road ones, the ones with no viewpoint but just important news, all of them. Some are our members. Many are not. We defend them anyway. America needs them like we need oxygen.”
Rowell argues that even if your newspaper seems to be “online,” the digital copy that you may count on probably couldn’t exist if there weren’t a printed newspaper behind it.
“The newspaper in print supports all of the other versions economically. So, if the printed version disappeared, you can’t assume all would be well because it is online anyway,” she said. “It won’t be.”
Here’s the deal: Canadian paper producers have supplied the U.S. for many years. They have some natural advantages over U.S. paper-makers because of hydroelectric power and shipping costs. In fact, 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 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,” Rowell said. “With demand falling, no one is going to invest in a massive expansion of U.S. newsprint.”
Our country will lose. Fragile newspapers will vanish. Challenged newspapers will have to cut back. Even healthy newspapers are going to have to find ways to absorb a daunting new cost, she said.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.