Why The Campus Costs More to Print

By SARAH ASCH

Small newspapers around the country are feeling the effects of a now-repealed tariff placed on Canadian newsprint, including The Middlebury Campus. 

After the U.S. Department of Commerce implemented the tariff in January of this year, The Campus saw a 17 percent increase to the cost of printing a 16-page paper. 

In part to counter the cost, The Campus decided this fall to print a 12 page paper with two fewer color pages. Even with the cuts, the cost of printing The Campus is four percent higher than last year. 

The tariff, which functions as a tax on foreign goods collected by the federal government, was enacted after the North Pacific Paper Company petitioned the Commerce Department, claiming that they could not compete with cheaper Canadian newsprint flooding the market. After the Commerce Department announced preliminary findings and enacted the tariff in January, it then affirmed the decision on Aug. 2, announcing several different tariffs on Canadian paper companies. 

Several weeks later, the U.S. International Trade Commission announced a decision to overturn the tariff. This may alleviate some of the financial burden placed on local newspapers, but many fear the tariff’s effects will continue, further impacting an already volatile industry. 

The Campus prints at The Press Republican, a small company that also runs a daily paper in Plattsburgh, N.Y. George Rock, the company’s director of sales and marketing, hopes the prices will return to normal. If they do, Rock says they hope to lower their prices for existing customers once they sell out of the inventory they purchased at the raised rate. Still, Rock stressed that the tariff had profound consequences. 

“It affected the whole newspaper industry,” he said. 

Corinne Rigby, the co-owner of The Adirondack Pennysaver, a small local newspaper in Plattsburgh, N.Y., printed by The Press Republican, has seen her printing costs rise since the tariff took effect. She said her price went up $325 per edition, which could add up to an cost increase of $16,900 per year. 

Advertising is the only source of revenue for The Adirondack Pennysaver. Rigby said they are hesitant to raise advertising fees because their advertisers are small businesses, too. Even though the tariff has now been overturned, Rigby does not think the printing cost will return to the lower rate. 

“If this cost increase goes on and on it will impact us,” she told The Campus. “We’re already talking about changing the size of our paper because there is a size that’s less expensive.” 

STOPP, which stands for “Stop Tariffs on Printers and Publishers,” is a coalition of small newspapers and publishers, which banded together against the tariff and collected statistics about how it negatively affected local papers. According to STOPP, at least three newspapers, two in Minnesota and one in Ohio, closed entirely while the tariff was in effect. The Tampa Bay Times announced cuts to their staff  in April, and a number of other papers reduced the number of days a week they publish or cut down on content. In total, STOPP named 24 newspapers in 14 states that were impacted. 

Many worry that the tariff caused a permanent cost hike, one that will continue to drain the industry. Lamiaa Elshafay, who works in the accounting office at The Press Republican, does not believe the cost of newsprint will go back down anytime soon. Elshafay said The Press Republican has not been notified of any price reduction from their manufacturer, despite the fact they have purchased two shipments since the tariff was overturned. She said The Press Republican is trying to cut other expenses, hopefully limiting the extent to which they have to pass the increased cost onto their printing customers. If the price of newsprint lowers, she said they will lower their prices too. 

“I don’t think people understand that this whole industry is getting harder every year,” she said, adding that prices were rising before the tariff even went into effect. “There is less production happening, and less competition means higher prices.” 

“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” she said. “And I really think it’s watching time right now. I don’t think pricing is going to go down.” 

In the meantime, the Student Government Association Finance Committee, which oversees the more than $1 million student activities budget, approved extra funding for The Campus to help cover the increased printing costs. 

Evan Chaletzky ’19, The Campus’s business manager, said he hopes the cost of printing will fall soon, but there’s really no way to know. 

“As it stands, we can cover costs,” he said. “But it’s really out of our hands.” 

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