Farewell Grand Junction Free Press | PostIndependent.com

Farewell Grand Junction Free Press

Ken Johnson
Free Press Founder

The community will miss you. Once a stout little daily, finally a scrappy weekly, still full of great stories and photos.

Its birth in May 2003 raised blood pressures and antipathy down on South Seventh Street, but the community loved it. It was never a great “newspaper war” where we were concerned; shoot, we just filled the pages with stories the big paper ignored.

So it grew, delivered to every office, or business, door in the valley, and in those green boxes just about everywhere. And it was free.

Many will remember you could also have the Free Press delivered to your home for the price of a weekend Denver Post.

Swift Communications bought the paper and expanded it. The paper was succeeding in its community niche because it mirrored the community. It was bright, a bit laid back, somewhat sophisticated and just as much fun as the community it served.

Swift is a solid newspaper organization with a big Colorado presence. Its mountain dailies include the Vail Daily, Summit Daily, Aspen Times and Glenwood Springs Post Independent. It had been weighing a free daily in Grand Junction when we did it instead.

With Swift as the new owner, my role continued as emeritus publisher, father confessor, editorial columnist and town gadfly.

The four founding partners had one goal: Be Local. Despite the sudden demise of the gas-drilling boom, another economic “bust” for the valley, the paper never lost that focus.

Of course, no one anticipated the “Great Recession” to come along and steal America’s dreams. As that crash reverberated through the nation, the valley was not immune. Our economy tanked further. While it’s creeping back, it’s still not to boom days again.

The late Yogi Berra had the best quote to describe such an event: “It feels like Déjà vu all over again”.

For the Free Press, a money-losing daily in a busted economy couldn’t continue. But it did survive, first as a three-days-a-week paper, and then as the successful weekly.

From day one there were hundreds of proud moments, from fascinating, brightly written stories to helping great projects.

I’ve been engaged in one of those projects for over 10 years. That’s the Legends of the Grand Valley sculptures. You’ve read about those annual sculptures.

Happily, that led to lots of stories about how the town and valley came to be what it is today. The project, chaired by Tillie Bishop, has put bigger than life “story” sculptures in the downtown, one each year.

Like the Free Press, Legends is ending its long run with a final sculpture next April.

But just like the beginning of both the Free Press and Legends, the town is getting a huge surprise November 13; the new movie TRUMBO is scheduled for one night at our historic Avalon Theatre. The film is just being released in a few “select cities” starting Nov. 6, so it’s close to the film’s premier for little Grand Junction.

Trumbo of course, our local boy who made good, was the start of the Legends sculptures. He’s the bronze guy in the bathtub in front of the Avalon since 2007, writing another Oscar-winning movie script.

Legends is coming full circle with Trumbo again in the spotlight for a big evening at the Avalon. The “Dalton Gang” is closing shop. I’m just sorry the Free Press won’t be able to report on that happening.

When it comes to legends and legacies, the town’s history can happily include the Free Press.

It has been, for over 12 years, a scrapbook of the lives of all of us in the Grand Valley.

Free Press columnist Ken Johnson is founder of the Grand Junction Free Press and former owner/publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He spends his time between the Grand Valley and California.


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