Federal newsprint tariffs threaten to 'jeopardize our news,' put community newspapers at riskSubmitted: 03/28/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Federal newsprint tariffs threaten to 'jeopardize our news,' put community newspapers at risk
SHAWANO - The lights never go out at Christensen Printing and Publishing in Shawano.

President and CEO Rod Christensen's plant operates 24 hours a day, cranking out about 135 magazines, shoppers, and local newspapers.

"They're from all over Wisconsin," Christensen said. "Every little community around here we pretty much print for."

Local papers like the Forest Republican, Merrill Foto News, and Antigo Times roll off the presses. They're all on newsprint from Canadian mills, like just about every newspaper in Wisconsin. Christensen takes in about 60 tons of the paper each week.

But this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce upped the tariff on Canadian newsprint to about 30 percent.

That's hitting small newspapers and printers hard. Christensen said he's now paying an extra $40,000 per month for newsprint compared to last year.

"In order for us to survive, we try to give the best deals we possibly can to our local communities," he said. "That's getting harder and harder and harder to do with these new increases in pricing."

Andrew Johnson owns and operates three weekly community newspapers in Dodge County. He's also the vice president of the National Newspaper Association.

"This tariff would jeopardize our news in Wisconsin," Johnson said in a Skype interview.

He's worried the tariff could put some small Wisconsin newspapers out of business.

"We definitely are at risk of losing [them]," Johnson said. "If the prices go too high and/or we can't get supply, we would go out."

Johnson said the tariffs were triggered by a loophole in Commerce Department code. Lawyers and investors associated with a small newsprint-producing mill in Washington state found and exploited the loophole, starting the tariff.

This year, Johnson will lobby the Commerce Department to get rid of the tariffs. He'll argue, in part, that a loss of newspapers could mean a loss of small towns.

"There is no one else that's really interested in your communities," Johnson said. "I think without that, the community would lose its identity."

In Shawano, Christensen is frustrated with the tariffs.

At the same time, he keeps a positive outlook.

"We'll be around for a long time to come," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind."

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THREE LAKES - After 30 years, Dr. George Karling decided it's time to retire as the Three Lakes District Administrator.

He plans to leave after the school year ends, but the school board is already preparing to find his replacement.

Early next month, the Three Lakes School District will host two input sessions for the public.

Three Lakes residents can go to give their opinions on what they want in a replacement. 

Karling's decision to retire comes about a month after he faced criticism for allowing the district to be featured in a campaign ad for Gov. Scott Walker. 

People who can't make it can still send their thoughts to the Three Lakes Board of Education. People can submit comments by writing to:

Board of Education, Three Lakes School District
6930 West School St. 
Three Lakes, WI 54562 

or email: tr@threelakessd.k12.us.

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RHINELANDER - Kids ran throughout the Woodpecker Bar and Grill in Rhinelander on Saturday for the third annual Harvest Hoedown.

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A 16-year-old girl is missing from Sawyer County according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Angel Marie Simonson is reported as an endangered missing person. She is a white female, 5'7", and 220 lbs. 

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RHINELANDER - A man died after a house fire in Rhinelander on Friday night.

According to a press release from the Rhinelander Police Department, Rhinelander police and firefighters responded to the fire at 320 Rose Street near Hodag Park around 7:30 p.m.  

Firefighters went inside the house soon after they arrived and found an unresponsive man on the floor.  Firefighters and paramedics tried to revive the man, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

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RHINELANDER - A house fire in Rhinelander left one man dead Friday.

Emergency responders got the call around 7:30 p.m. for a home near Hodag Park.

Steve Smith heard a dispatch call over his step-sons radio about the fire at his neighbor's home on Rose Street.

"We walked out the front door and it was plain as day," said Smith. "The flames were rolling out of the front window."

At first, Smith wasn't sure if anyone was in the home. "There was a man they brought out," said Smith. "unfortunately, I heard he was deceased,"

Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier confirmed the victim was found dead on the scene.

"Life saving measures were done by the paramedics. Unfortunately, the male had passed away," said Gauthier. "At this point, it appears that it was due to something left on the stove."

Gauthier says more details about the victim will be released on Monday. 

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WOODRUFF - Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport hosted a fun-filled day for family and friends on Saturday.

This comes about five months after one of its helicopters crashed, killing three Spirit employees.

Regional manager Charles Kotke said those men were in mind today,

"Today is a day of bringing people together, as well as a celebration of our 25 year anniversary," said Kotke. "This team did an amazing job getting us back to caring for our patients and doing what we need to do to care of our community."

Flight paramedics showed off the aircrafts to people and the helicopter was a big hit.

"They definitely like to look at the aircrafts. See how we transport patients from point A to point B," said Northern Region Supervisor Ryan Short.

Next Saturday, Spirit is celebrating with more associates. The second part of the celebration will be in Stevens Point.

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