Opinion: U.S. paper tariffs impact the Chronicle

 

If you’re whitewater rafting and notice some unexpectedly busy rapids up ahead, best to give it your full attention.

Here at the Chronicle, we can see the white froth just around the bend. It has our attention. What shall we do?

The tussle over international trade has come home to the Chronicle. As you know, President Donald Trump has raised tariffs on goods from Canada and other nations. Whether or not that’s good policy is not a Jewish issue, and I’ll leave it to others to have that debate.

But the result is that our printing costs have lurched 25 percent higher in recent months. The cost of printing our Guide to Jewish Wisconsin – we distribute 10,000 copies annually – has also increased.

In April, CNN reported that the “US Commerce Department applied … tariffs to Canadian paper in January and March, causing the price of newsprint to spike about 30% overall, according to print publishers.” CNN reports this is affecting newspaper publishers everywhere.

Since I came here from the daily newspaper world three years ago, I’ve been impressed with the commitment of our community. I’ve been touched by how strongly so many in the community feel about having a solid Jewish newspaper. Literally, people at one of our Wisconsin synagogues, at a local Jewish event, or at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, will just come up to me. They tell me how much they appreciate the Chronicle. I can tell from their questions and comments, they really read it and use it. Honestly, I get much more of that now than I did when I ran the newsroom of a daily paper with several times the Chronicle’s circulation.

I think it’s because we’re a small but mighty community that cares about continuity. We’re Wisconsin Jews. We need our institutions, our connecting points.

Before my time here, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation made a great decision, to make the Chronicle free. Anybody in the community, regardless of financial circumstances or even their level of interest, can sign up for the Chronicle. Lest you think this is an old Jewish community where nothing changes, we get new subscription requests all the time. Some requests come from people moving to the area. Others are from people rediscovering the Chronicle. Either way, each request is itself a mitzvah, as is fulfilling it. (Forgive me, I say that with an admittedly colloquial use of the word mitzvah – a good deed, a thing to be appreciated – rather than the proper literal meaning, a commandment. I know, I’m such a rebel.)

One might say the Chronicle has been able to navigate the rapids of the newspaper industry for years thanks to your mitzvot. So many in the community have placed ads in our print edition and on our website, in part to be supportive, and so many have become Friends of the Chronicle, that our little newspaper has retained financial strength beyond what many daily newspapers have experienced.

Good news: The Chronicle has a strong Internet and social media presence.

Our Facebook and Twitter pages are among the most visited Jewish pages in the Midwest. Our Facebook page is growing rapidly. I see evidence of this all the time when I look at our stats. “Engagement” is the Facebook buzzword for likes, shares and comments. As I write this, our Facebook “insights” page tells me we’ve had 179 engagements this week. Not bad compared to the 339 engagements this week for the mammoth New York Jewish Week, eh? (They’ve got 27,000 page likes; we’ve got 1,600.)

But Facebook is a terrible platform for growing revenue, unless you happen to actually be Facebook. And newspapers nationwide have found that online advertising cannot replace print advertising. Instead, many niche publications like the Chronicle have increasingly turned to their readers for support.

Now more than ever, we really could use it!

So if you feel you get some sort of benefit from this free service, I’m asking you to consider supporting it. Place an ad or become a Friend of the Chronicle at JewishChronicle.org/donate.

Thanks in advance for your mitzvot.

Rob Golub is editor of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.