EASTON — The Star Democrat will be launching a local e-edition on Mondays, starting Aug 6.
The e-edition will feature at least six pages each Monday in a long tabloid size and will include local news and the daily comics and puzzles. The size will allow for easier printing at home than the broadsheet size of the print edition.
Today’s paper also features the first edition of a combined Weekend! and TV Weekly, combining local arts and entertainment news and upcoming events with daily TV listings and puzzles. The comics that have been included in the Weekend! section on Fridays now will appear in the sports section.
David Fike, president of the The Star Democrat’s parent company, APG Media of Chesapeake, announced the elimination of the paper’s Monday print edition in a July 6 column, citing a massive increase in newsprint costs due to tariffs approved by the Trump administration.
“Unfortunately, since the fourth quarter of 2017, we have locally experienced significant increased costs, up nearly 30 percent, related to this imported newsprint. At current pricing, these tariffs will add nearly $500,000 annually in added expense to our business. Newsprint represents the second largest expense item behind employees for our business, resulting in significant decreases to our bottom-line,” Fike wrote.
The U.S. Commerce Department approved the first of two preliminary tariffs in January after it received a complaint from a single Washington state paper mill, North Pacific Paper Co. (NORPAC), in 2017. That mill is one of only five remaining American newsprint mills, in part because demand for newsprint, also known as uncoated groundwood paper, has dropped by 75 percent nationwide since 2000.
Only after NORPAC was purchased in 2016 by One Rock Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, did it petition the government for tariffs, claiming Canadian newsprint suppliers have an unfair advantage due to governmental subsidies.
The Commerce Department announced Thursday that it would make the tariffs permanent, but would reduce the rate. The tariffs could be rejected by a three-vote majority of the four-member U.S. International Trade Commission, an independent federal agency, at a scheduled Aug. 28 hearing. A 2-2 tie would uphold the tariffs.
Fike joined with dozens of other newspaper executives in personally lobbying more than 60 senators in Washington, D.C., last month, asking them to voice their opposition of the tariffs and their devastating impact on the American newspaper industry. Just this week, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters that he personally lobbied U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to allow the temporary tariffs to expire.
“Ross seemed sympathetic, but you never know what’s going on,” Schumer said, according to the Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y. “We can nip it in the bud if Commerce says they’re not going to have it. I’m going to do everything I can to stop this counter-productive, job-killing tariff.”
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-MD.-1st, said he “hopes that when the Commerce Department finalizes its decision on Canadian newsprint tariffs next month, they take into account the detrimental effect those tariffs have on our smaller, local newspapers.”
Harris said he “hopes the president is willing to consider dropping all tariffs and trade barriers if Canada drop theirs — as he has suggested to the European Union recently. That would end any newsprint tariffs.”
In the meantime, APG Media has taken many steps to decrease back office expenses that are not so visible to the public, Fike said in his announcement.
“These steps helped, but unfortunately did not result in the cost savings needed to offset these substantial tariff expenses. We recognized that additional difficult decisions with our business model were needed,” he said, announcing the cut of the Monday edition.
Meanwhile, the new Monday e-edition, which will be available to subscribers on The Star Democrat’s website, stardem.com, will feature local news, comics and puzzles.
The Star Democrat is not alone in feeling the effects of the tariff increases. Its sister paper, The Cecil Whig in Elkton, also is cutting its Monday edition, leaving two printed editions.
Nationwide, other papers, large and small, are choosing to shed print editions, citing the impact of the tariff hike. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania’s second largest newspaper by circulation, recently announced plans to drop two of its daily printed editions in August.
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the largest daily newspaper in western Colorado, is cutting its Monday and Tuesday print editions out of its currently daily circulation starting in August.
Sierra Nevada Media Group is cutting the Carson City, N.V.,-based Nevada Appeal’s publishing schedule from six days a week to two, while slashing several editions out of three other papers as well.
Other newspapers have decided to make other changes to contend with the tariff hike. The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio’s third largest newspaper, recently decided to double its newsstand rates and increase its subscription rates by a third, citing the tariffs as the reason.
Meanwhile, Paul Tash, chairman and CEO of Florida’s largest newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, wrote in a recent editorial that the tariffs would add $3.5 million per year to his paper’s newsprint expenses if they are made permanent.
Despite the undesirable necessity of having to cut a printed edition to contend with rising costs, Fike noted that The Star Democrat remains committed to covering Talbot County and the Mid-Shore, publishing online daily and working to develop new digital products to bridge the print gap.
“Our staff remains committed to our mission and readers will be able to enjoy the content on our various digital outlets, www.stardem.com or our Stardem app,” Fike wrote. “While we will no longer have a print version on Mondays, our staff will continue to cover stories in our community every day and post content on our website and mobile app numerous times each day. Print subscribers have access to our website and mobile app contents for free; non-print subscribers can become a digital-only subscriber.
“Our ties to this community have been with numerous generations for well over 200 years, and this is not something we take lightly,” Fike wrote. “We have been there to chronicle each of your lives and the community we love. While this tariff increase on newsprint has forced us to make this difficult transition in our history, it will not change our commitment to this community. We have been, and will be, committed to be the voice of this community.”