Memories of the Free Press |

Memories of the Free Press

Dane Stickney
Former Free Press employee

Walk into Carlson Vineyards, a winery nestled among the twists and turns on 35 Road on East Orchard Mesa. Walk the wooden floors past the rainbow of wine bottles resting in their racks toward the back window. There’s a small bathroom on your left.

Go in there.

The wall near the porcelain throne is covered with scraps of papers — pictures of cats, postcards, comic strips. And a yellowed piece of snipped newsprint.

It’s a column I wrote for the Free Press in 2005, a farewell column penned after I’d accepted a job at the Omaha World-Herald newspaper. The column explains what I loved and what I’d miss about Grand Junction. In it, I praised Carlson for its Riesling — crisp, sweet, delicious.

For a decade that snipped out column has lived on Carlson’s bathroom wall. It’s the smallest of small things, but to me — and, I assume, the other Free Press founders — it’s huge.

I joined the Free Press team in May 2003 before the little newspaper had even published its first edition. I’d taken the job sight unseen and rolled my Pontiac Grand Am up Main Street to the Free Press’s small storefront office at 428 Main.

Walking into the office felt like a Sunday dinner. Slaps on the back, handshakes and smiles. In a journalistic world ruled by corporations, the Free Press was the antithesis — a group of folks who simply wanted shrink the scope of the news to the little things that mattered.

I held a variety of positions at the paper during its first two years — staff writer, columnist, sports editor, designer, photographer. At every position, three words gave me direction: local, local, local.

I wrote about the Ligrani brothers, farmers with a rich history in the valley who eventually saw their fields transform into a Wal-Mart and Lowes. I wrote about Loyd Files, the 107-year-old Grand Valley icon who helped build the original road to the top of the Colorado Monument.

And I wrote that column that talked about Carlson — a little blurb in a little column in a little newspaper that made a big impact at least with the folks at the winery.

Everything the founders and I did at the paper was motivated by the idea that little, local stories matter. While the Free Press won’t live on, let’s hope its stories — your stories — do.

Dane Stickney was a founding member of the Free Press in 2003. He exited the Grand Valley for a staff writer position at the Omaha World-Herald, which he left in 2009 to join Teach for America. He kept the co-founding thing going, helping start a charter school — STRIVE Prep-Sunnyside — in Denver in 2010 and taught writing there until earlier this year. He is currently an instructor in the University of Colorado-Denver’s school of education and is working on founding another charter middle school set to open in Denver’s Holly Square neighborhood in August 2016.

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