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  All the news thats fit to print looks like it will have to fit on Chinese newsprint

MarketWatch | February 2, 2007
Thomas Kostigen

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- U.S. newspapers are starting to import their newsprint from China. Short-term investors in newspaper companies may be happy to hear this. But it should be sad news for the rest of us.

The environmental and sustainability standards to which Chinese suppliers adhere are far below that of the usual suppliers of U.S. newsprint: Canadian mills. Newsprint is the cheap paper on which newspapers are printed.
In its online edition, Ethical Corporation, based in London, reports that began testing the paper from China at the Orlando Sentinel in November and said it expected to be using it at its largest newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, by January are also looking to China for newsprint, Ethical Corp. said.

To be sure, newspapers are hot media properties right now, from a mergers and acquisitions standpoint. Several groups of investors have bid on the Los Angeles Times, and rumors are swirling that The New York Times may be bought out and taken private by the Ochs-Sulzberger family, who own the most voting shares in the parent company.

This all, of course, sends eyeballs to newspapers' bottom lines and puts pressure on cost-cutting measures. Importing cheaper newsprint is one way to cut costs.
Still, perhaps like an investment in newspapers themselves, a dying form of media, this is short-sighted strategy.

There has been a moratorium on domestic logging in China for almost the past 10 years. That means most of the country's timber and wood products come from Myanmar, Indonesia and Russia, all of which have been accused of illegal logging. Canadian newsprint suppliers use pulp from legal logging in certified forests.
Deforestation is a huge problem worldwide and standards must be kept intact to keep trees from falling. Third World nations and those countries deep in debt often ignore forestry standards to meet demands of pulp suppliers. China's own moratorium came about because of its forest massacres and it claims to have replanted one billion new trees since 1982.

Shifting the burden elsewhere doesn't help, however.

Deforestation is linked to global warming because trees absorb carbon dioxide, a leading form of greenhouse gas that prevents the earth from cooling itself. Fossil fuels also contribute to carbon emissions. And all that newsprint traveling now from China will certainly add to that tax.

Now think about this: 4.3 million tons of newspapers, according to the Newspaper Association of America, end up in landfills and aren't recovered nor recycled; that's about one-third of all the newsprint that is used to print newspapers in the U.S.
Why don't newspaper owners invest more in recycling newsprint rather than importing more from other countries around the world that will only further deplete one of our greatest natural resources -- trees? In case you've forgotten trees take in all that carbon dioxide and produce ... oxygen.

In a world where fewer and fewer people are reading newspapers themselves anyway, why enlarge their footprint on the planet? Newspapers need to get with it; their size is even outdated. (One reason broadsheet newspapers were originally printed so big was to avoid the British government's tax on the number of pages produced.)

The Wall Street Journal (a unit of Dow Jones as is MarketWatch) this year reduced its page size, joining other papers that have taken that step in recent years. All U.S. papers should look at ways to reduce their effect on the world rather than add to its problems.

I read much of my news online and even on my handheld device. Taken into the world of paper, those screens aren't that big. Trying to unfold and refold and then read a newspaper on the New York City subway is an art form. Indeed, true New Yorkers take pride in their ability to read The New York Times in a crowded train at rush hour -- without paper mash up.

Newspaper reading shouldn't necessitate a tutorial. And it shouldn't necessitate importing paper from far away places.

Newspaper owners should make it easier on us and on the planet, even if that means difficulties for their companies on Wall Street.

 

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