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Newsprint supply is tightening, and you are affected

The paper (newsprint) used to print Windsor Weekly you hold in your hands cost 10 percent more than it did just a few weeks ago — and is likely to cost as much as 40 percent more in coming months, newspaper industry experts predict.

In what sounds like a farfetched scenario, tightening American newsprint supplies could threaten newspapers’ ability to print at all, the same experts say.

Forces beyond the control of Windsor Weekly — and thousands of community newspapers like us across America — are to blame, but our response will be noticeable to you, our readers:

  • Less non-local content. We will work harder than ever to provide news about Western Tidewater that you cannot find elsewhere. As we further maximize local news content, news and features from outside this community will be reduced in length, but stay close in story count via use as news briefs.
  • More online news. Our news staff routinely produces more local news and photographs than will fit in our print edition. Increasingly, we will rely on our website, where we have unlimited space, to publish excess news.

Why is newsprint becoming more expensive and scarcer? Two reasons: one long in the making, the other recent.

Because of the struggles of big-city newspapers, newsprint consumption in America has decreased 75 percent over the past two decades. As demand dropped, many American newsprint mills closed or converted to making other paper products.

Newsprint mills in neighboring Canada filled supply gaps as domestic production capacity dwindled. The result was market equilibrium and stable newsprint prices for much of the past decade — until last summer, when a small, hedge fund-owned newsprint mill in faraway Washington State caused a market jolt that no one saw coming.

North Pacific Paper Co., or NORPAC, complained to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission that Canadian producers were violating trade laws by receiving government loan assistance and harvesting trees on government land — advantages that allowed them to sell paper in the United States cheaper than American mills could. No other paper manufacturers have complained.

Pending results of an investigation that is ongoing, preliminary duties against Canadian producers of 7 percent to 10 percent began in January, followed by an additional 22 percent in March. Major newsprint makers, most of whom have mills in both countries, have announced major price increases in response.

For the record, Windsor Weekly is printed almost entirely on paper made in Calhoun, Tennessee, and Augusta, Georgia. Community newspapers like ours represent a sliver of newspaper demand. Despite still-healthy print readership, we alone cannot create enough demand to stimulate the U.S. newsprint market and bring shuttered mills back to life. Yet our need for newsprint to fulfill our obligation to readers is as enduring as that of The Washington Post or New York Times.

How can you help? If you are so inclined, call our United States Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and our United States Representatives Bobby Scott and Donald McEachin, and ask them to take a stand for community newspapers. You or I cannot express an opinion to the Department of Commerce or International Trade Commission, but senators and representatives can.

Visit https://www.stopnewsprinttariffs.org/contact-congress/ for sample language and contact information. If you prefer to send a letter by mail or contact by phone, information is below. Consider the following language when contacting lawmakers:

I urge you to get involved with an important issue that has dramatically impacted not only our community, but our nation’s entire economy. The Department of Commerce recently announced countervailing and anti-dumping duties on Canadian imports of newsprint that ranges as high 32 percent. These duties cannot be absorbed by newspapers and printers and most likely, will lead to higher prices for readers and businesses, incurring a loss of jobs in printing and publishing at the local level.

This issue started when one newsprint mill in the State of Washington, who is owned by a New York hedge fund, filed petitions for tariffs. The rest of the paper industry opposes the petitions because they know that these tariffs will cause damage to newspapers and printers, and will ultimately reduce the demand for newsprint.

I understand that the trade case is at a critical phase at the International Trade Commission, and members of Congress can express submit comments to the ITC on the impact of these tariffs on constituents. I respectfully request that you let the ITC know that this newsprint trade case will cause unintended consequences to our economy and local community, and should be rejected.

Thank you for your consideration of my views.

Tony Clark is publisher of Windsor Weekly. He can be reached at tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.