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Trump’s Newsprint Tariffs Hasten Local Newspapers’ Demise

Category: Political News,Politics

“The readers suffer when you cut a reporter position. It’s probably the easiest place to cut because you just run an A.P. story,” she said. “But it affects your local content. We won’t survive if we don’t have local content.”

At The Blackshear Times, a paper in rural South Georgia, the tariffs have prompted a hiring freeze, and about 25 percent of its open positions remain unfilled. The paper serves a community of about 19,000 people with a weekly print circulation of about 3,700 and a total readership of 7,000.

“The team is working harder for less money,” said Robert M. Williams Jr., the publisher and co-owner of The Blackshear Times and several other Georgia papers. “And not many people are happy about it.”

The paper has seen a stark rise in printing costs of 20 to 25 percent — a “whopping increase particularly for a small business that is already trying to combat decreased revenues and increased costs,” Mr. Williams said.

The paper has also cut down its page count — something readers have noticed and complained about. The circulation numbers have remained steady over the past several years — an anomaly given the sweeping national trend of falling circulations. On average, Mr. Williams said, only about a dozen subscribers sign into the website weekly to read the news online.

“In rural communities, print newspapers are still very important,” Mr. Williams said.

Blackshear is in what Mr. Williams called a “news desert,” where there is no local news station and the closest big city is Jacksonville, Fla. Residents rely on the paper to stay informed on Georgia politics and connected with their community, Mr. Williams said. “There are no alternatives for The Blackshear Times in Blackshear, Ga.”

Newspaper publishers are optimistic that congressional pressure could ease the tariffs. Legislation introduced in May by Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, would suspend the tariffs while Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, conducts a study of their effects on the industry. It has 31 bipartisan co-sponsors, and Representative Kristi Noem, Republican of South Dakota, introduced a companion bill in the House. Mr. Ryan has expressed his concerns about the tariffs to Mr. Ross, his office said on Wednesday.

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