Skip Bliss, publisher of The (Janesville) Gazette and WNA president, spoke out against proposed newsprint tariffs in an article published today by the New York Times.
“We’re all paying a huge price,” Bliss told the Times. “I fear it’s going to be a very difficult time. I think there’s probably going to be some casualties.”
The article mentions The Gazette is the hometown paper of House Speaker Paul Ryan, noting it made national news both for being first to publish news Ryan would support the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump and later when the editorial board chided Ryan for refusing to hold town halls with constituents.
In January, the Commerce Department set temporary tariffs of up to 32 percent on uncoated groundwood paper from Canada. On Aug. 2, the department announced a reduction of the tariffs, offering only a partial reprieve for publishers.
In the Times article, Bliss explains that relief from the tariffs is crucial to ensuring the survival of small, local newspapers.
“When they’re gone, they’re gone. They’re not coming back,” he says. “That means those communities — everything we do to hold governments and schools and law enforcement in check — there’s not going to be anyone to do that.”
WNA Foundation President Andrew Johnson last week discussed newsprint increases with The Times, expressing hope that the International Trade Commission will reverse the tariffs when it votes on Aug. 29.
Johnson, who is publisher of the (Mayville) Dodge County Pionier, Campbellsport News and the Kewaskum Statesman, also noted that, ultimately, the public will suffer if the tariffs remain in place.
“No one is going to work for free and no one is going to be covering the local stories that need to be told or local government,” he told The Times. “The threat of this tariff is still looming over us.”
The ITC, which has the ability to reverse the tariffs at the conclusion of its investigation, is expected to issue a ruling on Sept. 17, following its Aug. 29 vote.