SEBRING — Readers may notice changes in the News Wire and national Sports sections beginning with today’s edition. The change is a result of a nationwide newsprint shortage and market turmoil in the newsprint industry.
Two pages that are absent from those sections in the daily newspaper moving forward are the State by State page and the TV grid. The TV Book will continue to be included in the Saturday edition of the Highlands News-Sun at no additional charge for now.
Highlands News-Sun Publisher Tim Smolarick said, “Our parent company is doing everything it can to give us better control of our newsprint inventory and secure the future printing of our newspaper for the year. Locally, we must do the same and these first steps of the Wire and national Sports will have an effect on newsprint consumption right away.”
The newsprint shortage is compounded by recently announced tariffs on newsprint sold by companies headquartered in Canada.
Newsprint is the paper that newspapers are printed on.
Costs for newsprint from the Highlands News-Sun’s supplier are up 34 percent from the low, as has been announced by David Dunn-Rankin, CEO of Sun Coast Media Group, in a recent column.
The thinning of the newspaper is prompted by concerns over running out of newsprint due to market turmoil and not price, as paper will be conserved and inventory built “until the chaos subsides,” according to Dunn-Rankin.
“Locally, prudence demands that our operation takes a hard look at everything we do to make this transition as smooth as possible for our readers. We anticipate the newsprint availability to last the remainder of 2018,” Smolarick said.
The shortage in newsprint is affecting newspapers all across the nation. While some newspapers are hoarding newsprint due to the tariffs, mill cutbacks, transportation issues and newsprint shortages, other newspapers are shrinking their product, while others are looking at possible layoffs or even closure.
“It is difficult anytime we have to make changes to our publication, but we would rather do that than risk running out of newsprint for our publications,” said Romona Washington, executive editor of the Highlands News-Sun.
Smolarick added, “We will continue to publish the Highlands Sun, our newest magazines and those special sections that mean the most to our community.”
One paper supplier based in Washington state called North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC) has been blamed for the situation by various newspaper associations.
Standing alone, NORPAC alleged to the U.S. government that Canadian imports of uncoated ground-wood paper — which is used to make newsprint — were being subsidized and then dumped into American markets below fair value, creating an unfair advantage.
Canadian producers have more than 70 percent of the North American capacity for this product.
In January, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued preliminary findings with duties on six suppliers headquartered in Canada. Then in March, it preliminarily determined some exporters from Canada sold product at less than fair value.
Since then, suppliers including NORPAC, have announced price increases for April and May ranging from $22 to $65 per ton each month. Prior to that, from September to March, suppliers were increasing prices due to tightening market conditions that did not include adjustments for the duties, according to PAGE Cooperative, a nonprofit buying association involving hundreds of daily newspapers including Sun Coast Media Group, owner of the Highlands News-Sun and Highlands Sun.
The Canadian government said in a statement it would defend against “unfair and unwarranted U.S. trade measures and practices.” It warned duties will have a direct and negative impact on U.S. newspapers, and result in job losses in the American printing sector.
Facing increased prices and newsprint shortages, American newspapers, including the Tampa Bay Times, have said some jobs are in jeopardy.
The Sun isn’t planning to lay anyone off, Dunn-Rankin confirmed, but as staff retire they may not be replaced.
“Our consumers are telling us they want print,” Dunn-Rankin said. “I cannot see a world without print anytime soon.”
PAGE recently urged its members to keep significant inventory and give mills a lot of lead time since some members have been “dangerously close to running out of paper.”
Dunn-Rankin said he was “gravely concerned we too, could run out of newsprint.”
But with less newsprint available to buy, Dunn-Rankin said the company is warehousing more inventory — about double from a year ago.
Smolarick went on to say, “Our intent is to update our readers on any additional changes as quickly as we can. We appreciate your support as we continue on this journey together.”
The Commerce Department is expected to make final determinations on the duties later this year following public hearings.