Shortages of oil, food, and gasoline have been headlining the news for years. But there is one shortage that has received scant coverage in the Boston media--the drought of newsprint that has sent newspaper publishers around the country scurrying to the backwoods of Maine and even the hinterlands of Italy in search of the paper gold.
The chain of events which led to the shortage began almost two years ago when strikes shut down several Canadian and American mills, John Giuggio, business manager of the Boston Globe, said yesterday.
The shortage did not affect major U.S. customers until early this year when one major newsprint supplier, Georgia-Pacific, converted its mills to produce other forms of paper. To make matters worse, demand, paced by record newspaper sales, shot up.
The crisis reached its peak this fall, hitting the Globe harder than other area papers. The space allotted to news in the Globe dropped 7 per cent this fall, Giuggio estimated, and pictures of newly married couples were eliminated from the wedding pages of the Sunday section.
"We didn't get as many complaints as I thought we might, but it's been very frustrating. We even had to cut out the Golden Anniversaries once," a bridal page employee at the Globe said yesterday.
The Globe's inventory--usually about a month's worth of paper--dropped drastically, Giuggio said. "We were down to about a week's worth of paper," he added.
The Globe normally uses 120,000 tons of paper from nine suppliers. "It's usually split about 50/50 American and Canadian," Giuggio explained. "We had to deal with an Italian concern to get paper this year, though," he added.
"The real horror story has been at the Globe," Bill Baumgardener, business manager of the Boston Herald-American, said yesterday. "We've been pretty lucky, knock on wood," he added.
Even the Herald has felt the effects of rising prices, though. "It's gotten like oil, you never know what the next bill will say," Baumgardener moaned.
Until the shortage ends, newspapers will have to continue scrambling to find newsprint. Meanwhile the dearth of newsprint is being reflected in the quality of the paper that is delivered, Baumgardener said. "I've never seen paper like this--linted and yellowed. It's like printing on Charmin," he added, "but we're not sending any back--it's definitely a seller's market."