Rolls of paper at Graphics Inc. in Calmar.

Lately, it seems impossible to avoid “supply chain issues”. Go to a grocery store and there are fewer products on the shelves. Go to the mechanic, the ordered parts will take days or weeks longer to arrive. At Driftless Multimedia, it’s clear that even newspapers are affected by these issues.
Recently, it was announced that due to a litany of reasons, there could be immediate tangible changes to the newspapers. The changes mainly include less color in the paper and possible page rationing. For readers, this may not make much difference in the final product.
However, these issues go far beyond simple page throttling, as supply chain issues in general are impacting many businesses, and those that depend on them, right now.
Speaking with Mike Klimesh, owner of Graphics in Calmar, the company by which several regional newspapers are printed, this paper issue is the latest in a long list of supply chain issues. Graphics struggles to get parts for the operation’s essential equipment, ink, and newsprint. Just for newsprint, there are several factors to the problem.
Graphics sources its newsprint from Canadian paper mills. These mills are struggling to keep up with demand as the pulp mill is waiting for a spare part for the paper machines, which has crippled operations. In addition, loggers in Canada who supply wood for paper are behind schedule and have no space to store their product. And, when the plant is operational and the paper is produced, there will always be the problem of the shortage of truckers. “There are currently 14 truckloads of goods to be trucked in the country for every driver capable of driving the loads as it stands,” Klimesh said.
These issues are concerning, as Klimesh said: “For the first time I can remember, we are facing the possibility of running out of newsprint.” However, Graphics keeps a “cushion” of newsprint for two to three months, in case this happens. Still, there won’t be a sigh of relief, as the latest newsprint order is seven weeks late and Klimesh noted, “it hasn’t even been made yet.”
Therefore, things can come down to yarn for newsprint, as Klimesh said, “we burn through this cushion…and if we burn through this, we live a bit hand to mouth.”
Add to this growing concern that if the newspaper is not printed, Public Opinion, among other local publications, could lose its status as a periodical. According to Klimesh, postal requirements allow only two missed printings per year, after which the publication’s serial number is lost.
It’s the worst case scenario. As mentioned earlier, Driftless Multimedia is taking steps to ensure that things don’t boil down to such a dire situation. This mainly includes reducing the color in the publication, as it creates more paper waste when trying to print color correctly. There have been discussions about limiting pages, but Klimesh hopes it doesn’t have to come to that. “If it comes down to that, we’ll print up to 16 pages, all in black and white.” However, he is optimistic that this may not be necessary.
Keep that in mind in case there is a noticeable lack of color in the weeks to come. Supply chain issues are impossible to avoid, but that doesn’t stop the news from happening or the world from turning.

(Editor’s note: Digital versions of the Driftless Journal and Public Opinion are still available at driftlessjournal.com)