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Trib editorial: Newsprint tariffs imperil role of the press

| Friday, March 30, 2018, 9:18 a.m.
A press operator checks the newspaper as it rolls off the press at the Daily News in McKeesport in this Dec. 17, 2015 file photo.
A press operator checks the newspaper as it rolls off the press at the Daily News in McKeesport in this Dec. 17, 2015 file photo.

Even the most adamant U.S. trade-policy protectionist would be hard pressed to defend looming tariffs of 32 percent on Canadian newsprint.

This isn't about hostile foreign trade policy crushing beleaguered U.S. industries.

We're talking about our reliable trading partner to the north and just one American paper mill — in Washington state — asking for government intervention in the marketplace.

Shortly, the federal government is expected to decide whether to make permanent increased tariffs on newsprint.

Newspapers across the country already have seen a steep increase in newsprint prices.

The two biggest costs for newspapers are wages and newsprint.

At a time when the news provided by local newspapers fills an impactful community void, publishers are having to cope by cutting pages, printing days and in some cases shutting down their presses.

It doesn't bode well for the First Amendment.

Of course the claim is that Canadian paper mills have an unfair advantage over U.S. mills, forcing closings and limited demand.

But the U.S. newspaper industry blames that limited demand on the market forces at work: papers that have closed, cut print days or moved to all-digital news delivery.

Fewer and smaller newsrooms do not bode well for the traditional government watchdog role of the press.

We've grown accustomed to those watchdog reports appearing daily on our front porches.

Big government's actions may put that in peril.

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