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Greg Anderson: New schedule, same mission

Yesterday, President Trump said in a tweet, “Tariffs will make our country much richer than it is today. Only fools would disagree.”

I have no opinion about whether tariffs are good or bad, or whether, in the end, tariffs will be just what the doctor ordered. I sure do hope so. I do know how tariffs are affecting our ability to maintain and grow your newspaper. And we have to do something about it, quickly.

A couple of months ago I wrote a column expressing concern about tariffs our federal government invoked on Canadian newsprint suppliers. These tariffs started pushing the cost of newsprint up significantly. Newsprint is the second largest expense at the Salisbury Post.

Then, effective June 1, 2018, the U.S. government invoked a tariff on all imported aluminum including lithographic grade aluminum — the material in aluminum plates we put on the press to print the paper every day. Currently, I am told, there is no manufacturer/supplier of this aluminum grade in the U.S.

Our plate supplier estimates the total impact of this cost increase is in excess of $20 million annually for all companies combined who use lithographic plates in the U.S. It certainly won’t be that much for the Salisbury Post, but you can bet our share of that increase is difficult to absorb.

Prior to the tariffs, demand for newsprint was down 11 percent in 2017. American manufacturers cut production by 18 percent by closing mills or converting mills to production of other paper products like toilet paper. Prices for newsprint at the end of 2017 were rising naturally through these adjustments in supply.

To be fair, we’ve had our share of challenges. Rowan County has lost some big national retailers over the last few years. Some examples are Penney’s, Office Depot, KMart and Rite-Aid. Others reduced the quantity of inserts (sale papers) we need to provide a complete newspaper to home delivery subscribers. For example, one prominent national drug store sends us 2,000 inserts. We need at least 15,000. To replace this revenue, we’ve worked harder and have become more innovative in our marketing partnerships with local businesses.

But in January 2018, an American manufacturer in Washington state, owned by a hedge fund, complained to the federal government that the Canadian government was subsidizing their newsprint manufacturers. Our government was quick to levy tariffs and the price surge started.

Now seven months later and with more than a 30 percent increase in newsprint cost, we must respond by reducing publishing days for the Salisbury Post to five days per week. We will publish printed newspapers on Sunday and Tuesday through Friday. We will still report the news as it breaks on Saturdays and Mondays on salisburypost.com.

This change should keep The Salisbury Post operating at a level of profitability to produce the best local news coverage our community can support. Our professional journalists will continue to work for you seven days and nights a week. Our professional marketing team will continue to help build local businesses through print and digital marketing services. We will continue to be a regional printer of area newspapers and will use a fair share of those profits to strengthen the Salisbury Post.

We will continue to play an important role in civic engagement, telling the stories of people around us every single day whether in print or online. We will continue investigative coverage, and report on crime and courts. We will tell you how our leaders are spending your tax dollars. You will still find information about sports, business, religion, the arts, entertainment and more.

On behalf of everyone here at the Salisbury Post, we value you. Please subscribe to your newspaper and please encourage friends and family to do the same. Shop local. Find great deals from our advertisers. It helps our community.

Greg Anderson is publisher of the Salisbury Post.

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