Prior Restraint

Are Newsprint Tariffs Repressing A Free Press?

Newly printed Detroit News newspapers run thru the printing presses at the newspapers printing plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan December 16, 2008. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook (UNITED STATES)

News & Updates

The New York Times reports that the tariff on Canadian newsprint is “is hastening the demise” of already struggling local newspapers across the country.

The New York Times
August 2, 2018: Trump Administration Will Move Forward With Newsprint Tariffs At Lower Rate

The U.S. Department of Commerce said it will proceed with the Canadian newsprint tariffs, although it is imposing a less severe tariffs than initially suggested. The New York Times reports that the tariff will be lowered to 16.88 percent as opposed to the original 22 percent, and will only apply to one paper company. Canadian paper manufacturers that receive government substituted will have a 9.81 percent tariff. The  decision is not yet final however, because the International Trade Commission could veto or change the decision in an upcoming ruling.

The New York Times USA Today

July 2018: How Will The Newsprint Tariff Threaten The Operation And Publication Of Newspapers?

The U.S. International Trade Commission is considering whether to permanently institute a recently imposed tariffs of up to 30 percent on newsprint from Canada, the largest source for US newspapers. The AFP reports on an International Trade Committee hearing where several members of congress, printers and publishers pleaded with the panel to overturn their findings. The tariffs add even more economic strain on the already collapsing US newspaper industry, with particular impact on reducing page counts at small daily and weekly papers. Newsroom staff cuts across the country have been rampant, most recently with a 50 percent decrease at the New York Daily News this past week.


About a dozen members of Congress warned the International Trade Commission at a hearing that newsprint tariffs would hurt the local news coverage in their home states.


MarketWatch reports that not only small and mid-size papers are affected, but large publishing companies like Gannett also blame the imposition of tariffs and the rising cost of newsprint as a obstacle.


The Financial Times reports on the numbers: US daily newspaper circulation has fallen 17.9 percent since 2015 and ad revenue has dropped by almost $3.9 billion, according to The Pew Research Center. The price of paper has jumped almost one-fifth in the past year, according to the Foex US 30lb newsprint index.

The Financial Times

The Chicago Tribune reports that the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed the tariffs as a response to a complaint lodged by North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC), and independent paper company in Washington state. NORPAC claimed that Canadian paper manufacturers were receiving a subsidy by their government and offered lower prices, giving them an advantage over US companies. Since the tariffs, NORPAC reports that their business has been on the rise. The Tribune spoke with many publishers to ask about the impact of the tariffs on their operations.

The Chicago Tribune

Opinion & Analysis

Ken Doctor writes in Nieman Lab on the uneven consequences that the tariffs are having on publishers, the origination of the NORPAC case, and how publishers are reforming their product in light of economic constraints. He notes that 2018 was the biggest year for the selling of newspaper properties, and these tariffs will only exacerbate that trend.

Nieman Lab

Steve Forbes writes in The Wall Street Journal, “As if limiting economic freedom weren’t enough, the administration is also undermining Americans’ freedom of expression with this needless tax on journalism.”

The Wall Street Journal

Chairman and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times and Times Publishing Co. Paul Tash urged the commission to put an end to newsprint tariffs, saying that they would add $3.5 million a year to their expenses in an era of already plummeting newspaper publishing industry.

Tampa Bay Times

Charles Selle suggests in the Lake County News-Sun that the newspaper tariffs is President Trump’s form of revenge on the press. “I will proffer that this was planned specifically to silence the print media in this country by an administration that truly despises a free press,” Selle writes. “The president views newspapers as a hostile Fourth Estate, not friendly to his version of America.” He notes that President Trump has bailed out soybean farmers in the Midwest impacted by the tariffs, but has made no effort to aid newspapers in the rising costs.

Lake County News-Sun

Documents & Resources

“Analysis of the Impact of Newsprint Tariffs on the Newsprint Industry” 

A study conducted by Charles River Associates (CRA) on behalf of STOPP (Stop Tariffs on Printers and Publishers) Coalition members, the News Media Alliance and Quad graphics, evaluated the impact that the tariffs on Canadian newsprint will have on on newspapers and printers. The study was filed with the International Trade Commission.

Key findings include: a projected price increase by more than 30 percent; an increased cost of a half a billion dollars for newsprint consumers; a decrease in demand from U.S. producers for newsprint; an estimated loss of more than 250 newsprint jobs following a short spike in employment.

CRA Study