Trump's Paper Tariff's Stifle The Sunday Robesonian

Aug 1, 2018

File photo of a comic strip.
Credit Elizabeth Baier / WUNC

The Trump Administration tariffs on paper are forcing the Robesonianan newspaper to cut its 8-page Sunday color comics section. Editor Donnie Douglas wrote an editorial explaining that the cost of Canadian newsprint has become too expensive to keep printing that section.

Douglas said the paper is now paying abour 30-percent more for newsprint. He says it's now too expensive for the paper moving forward with the light-hearted Sunday favorite. Douglas said the paper once tried cutting the comics years ago to increase profits under a previous owner and quickly restored them amid backlash. But he said this time's different.

"The response has been a bit muted. I've been a little surprised," Douglas said. "I think the editorial is part of the reason why perhaps some of the criticism that we might have received, might be from the people who went for Trump. This county did go for Trump, narrowly, but it did. So you know, it wasn't necessarily intended 'editorial.' It was more of an informative editorial, kind of 'this is what we did and why we did it'."

Douglas said this is just one more hit his declining industry has had to take as fewer readers buy newspapers. He said the Robesonian has cut spending for wire services, photography, and columnists over the years, and there are no more corners to cut.

"There's really just nothing left, besides personnel," said Douglas, who explained that newsroom staff has dwindled to half its size since he started there about 22 years ago.

"There's nothing left, so what we have to do as a newspaper, and we, I think, done really well, is be efficient in what we do, and try to making sure everybody's working hard and producing. Because we just can't afford for people not to do that."

Douglas said his reporters do important work, especially covering corruption in local government. He says he worries that Robeson County might one day be left without a watchdog.

This story has been corrected to reflect the 22 years Donnie Douglas has been at The Robesonian.