In these polarized times, even the veracity of basic information can be the subject of heated disagreement.

We won’t use this space to evaluate the merits of different cable news outlets or mull which trade in “fake news.” Enough of that is being done in other spheres.

We are compelled, though, to share some information about an issue that carries significant ramifications for those who are employed by, and otherwise rely on, community newspapers.

The U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission are presently considering the complaint of a Washington State newsprint producer, North Pacific Paper Co., alleging that Canadian newsprint producers have violated trade laws. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Canadian companies have received unfair government subsidies and have sold their products at too cheap a price in the United States, resulting in harm to American paper producers.

The Canadian companies – which provide newsprint for many American publishers, particularly in the the Northeast – have rejected the claims of unfair competition. The drop in demand for U.S. newsprint production, they say, is attributable instead to market forces, specifically declines in the newspaper industry and the shift toward digital publishing. It is worth noting that many American paper companies have shifted their focus away from newsprint and started production of other grades of paper that are in greater demand.

As the matter is investigated by trade officials, preliminary duties of up to 10 percent for the alleged subsidies and 22 percent for the alleged underpricing have been levied against Canadian newsprint producers.

The effects are already being felt, and will continue to be, by newspapers like ours. For an industry already struggling to find its economic footing in an ever-changing world, this added burden truly stings.

We’ll leave it to you to explore this issue further, if you so choose. Much more information can be readily found through a coalition known as Stop Tariffs on Printers & Publishers, or STOPP, at stopnewsprinttariffs.org – along with ways to get involved, if you are so moved.

Just as we support the right of Americans to disagree, we understand the vital role competition plays in our system and way of life. And just as we are dedicated to engaging with a broad range of perspectives, so too are we committed to the principle of fair play.

In the case of newsprint tariffs, we must add our voice to those who have cried foul and raised the alarm. It is, of course, in our self interest to do so. But the greater interest, one that should concern us all, is the health of our shared civic discourse – in which newspapers still play a vital role, especially on the local level.

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