Sunday, September 20, 2020


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Thanks for the Effort

            As COVID-19 continues to keep people home with many seeking answers to so many questions, they are turning to trusted news outlets for information – especially local information.

            As the pandemic rages, publishers are facing plummeting advertising revenue, an economic downturn that's hitting subscriptions and nationwide lockdowns that make it challenging to report on the latest developments.

            In other words – Journalism, print and online, is going broke.

            After a tariff was imposed on newsprint (no other paper products – just newsprint) in January of 2016 (as high as 32%) newspapers were forced to pay an unexpectedly higher rate to produce their product. 

            Newspapers, especially local newspapers, were forced to absorb the brunt of it.  Hundreds of them in the United States reduced staff or went out of business that year.

            Many smaller newspapers around the country struggled to handle the increased costs, leading to layoffs and page-count reductions. Newspaper industry groups lobbied Congress and the administration to back off the tariffs, arguing that the measures did more harm than good.

            By August of 2016, Congress was able to convince the President to lower the tariff, but the damage was done.  Prices that were raised to purchase newsprint didn't come down.  Many producers were concerned about the investment they just made in raising the prices, the cost they would incur to lower the prices, and the cost to raise them again if tariffs were re-imposed.

            Just a few weeks later, the United States International Trade Commission overturned the administration's decision to impose tariffs on Canadian newsprint, in the first place saying that American paper producers are not harmed by newsprint imports.

            The unanimous decision by the five-member body should have eliminated tariffs that were in effect since January

            But guess what?  The tariff didn't go away and the cost to newspapers didn't come down. Canadian newsprint producers were still paying the tariff and still wary of the costs involved in their yo-yo relationship with the United States, as were printers in the United States.

            Then, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office decided to alternate their sales monthly between a Philadelphia paper and other local newspapers – including the Town and Country.  That included the sales of property primarily in the upper end of Montgomery County – which are no longer being entirely advertised in the upper end of Montgomery County.    

            Still reeling from those hits, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown local newspapers from the frying pan into the fire.

            Two weeks ago, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers seeking assistance for local media companies facing challenges brought on due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fitzpatrick signed on to a letter asking the Administration to direct advertisement funds for federal programs to local media outlets. Additionally, the letter asks the Administration to accelerate marketing campaigns with local media and incentivize businesses to advertise in local media.

            "In our community, local media outlets provide news that we care about, and they need our help to stay afloat and keep providing up to date information and news during this uncertain time."

            To date, the Town and Country has not received any federal, state or county grants, loans, or any other assistance.  Sometimes for a news outlet, it's better that way.

            Fitzpatrick is asking that a bit of the federal advertising funds, for federal programs to the public, be directed to local outlets.  Not a loan; not a grant; just business.

            We haven't gotten any advertisements yet from the federal government, but we thank Congressman Fitzpatrick for his efforts.





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