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Senator Carper meets with Delaware State News

August 14, 2018

Delaware's Senator Tom Carper met with representatives from Independent Newsmedia Inc.'s printing and executive teams and MDDC on Tuesday to discuss the ramifications of the newsprint tariffs in effect since January 2018.  The story is not pretty. MDDC members have seen newsprint costs rise by about 30% over an eight-nine month period.  For instance, INI is spending about $40,000 more PER MONTH on newsprint than it was just one year ago, for less paper.  Senator Carper and his staffers educated themselves on this issue and understand how it affects local communities.

In Maryland and Delaware, MDDC's members employs thousands of people.  From journalists who strive to cover their communities deeply and objectively, to designers, support staff, sales people and printers, news organizations are economic engines in their local communities.  The margins of the news media are stressed already, as many industries are.  Since the March tariffs, newsprint costs have risen dramatically, by about 30%.  That translates into big money very quickly. The Department of Commerce reaffirmed tariffs in July and validated tariffs ranging from 4% to about 22%.

It’s not just about newsprint.  It’s about news coverage.  The highest cost outside of personnel for our publishers is newsprint.  News organizations have seen double-digit increases in the cost of materials over an eight-month period.  These tariffs are not pushing news media from print to digital.  They are pushing news coverage out altogether. Digital alone does not generate enough revenue to support the news staff of even the smallest publication.  
Publishers, both large and small, are making very difficult choices that affect news coverage, frequency of publication and / or the number of jobs.    

Newspapers, especially local publications, are deeply trusted by their communities and are a major source of information about the community.  Newspaper readers have higher rates of community attachment, vote more regularly in local elections, participate more often in local group and political activity, and rate their local communities more positively than those who were not as engaged with their local news outlet (Barthel, Holcomb, Mahone, & Mitchell, 2016). Further, advertisers will have fewer outlets to reach potential buyers and newsworthy events and causes will go unreported.  Our members are deeply involved in their communities, providing valuable exposure to charitable organizations, pro bono advertising, and discussing and analyzing critical issues.  If tariffs drive these publications out of business, or dramatically decrease their ability to cover local news, society as a whole will suffer.  Without the press functioning as the skeptical watchdog, the level of accountability to the public and to each other diminishes.  

MDDC wil continue to carry this message to our elected representatives and support our members on this issue.  The International Trade Commission heard arguments July 17th about the effect the tariffs are having on consumers and will make a ruling by the end of August as to whether the tariffs are appropriate.  If the ITC does not provide relief, focus will turn to the PRINT Act, which would suspend tariffs until the Department of Commerce completes its investigation.

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