The Free Press to cease publication

The Free Press will print its final issue at the end of next month, ending the paper’s more than 30 years of publishing in the Woodstock community.

Keith Stickley, owner, founder and publisher of The Free Press, said the decision to close the paper came down to two facts: “No one left to edit it and too little money to hire someone,” he said.

Stickely, who has been in the newspaper business for 57 years and served as VPA’s President from 2012-2013, said he will now dedicate more time to operating his commercial newspaper printing business, Narrow Passage Press, and to “searching for golf balls.”

The Free Press published its first edition on August 8, 1985. It’s launch was covered by the Washington Post in the Metro Section as a “Showdown in the Valley” between Stickley and the powerful Byrd family newspaper dynasty.

Controversy followed The Free Press throughout its existence because of its reputation as a paper that pulled no punches in its coverage. The paper’s critical and dogged reporting on local public figures in the community did not win them many advertisers.

But the paper–sustained by Stickley’s commercial newspaper printing business –did not relent when local advertisers pulled out, operating for 32 years without a profit, Stickley said.

“I’ve always believed that people need someone they can trust,” Stickley said during an interview with Editor & Publisher. “I don’t think a lot of people trust the establishment, the power brokers. It’s the job of a newspaper to inform the public about what’s going on.”

The Free Press was one of the first Virginia newspapers, and one of the first in the country, to be at the cusp of the digital design and printing revolution that happened across the newspaper industry during the 1980s. The paper was one of the first in the country to be composed entirely on Apple desktop publishing and was also one of the first papers in Virginia to use computer-to-plate printing technology.

The Free Press will print its last edition on Thursday, May 30.

RTD archivist leaving

Nicole Kappatos, the researcher and archivist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is leaving the newspaper.

Kappatos’s dives into the archives were often displayed in a series she regularly updated called, “From the Archives.” These slideshows of usually black-and-white photographs would show historic moments in Richmond but would also show candid slice-of-life photos.

Kappatos also served as the anchor for RTD’s News Minute, which the paper uploads each weekday morning. Kappatos is leaving to relocate with her husband in Denver, Col.

Pilot Reporters win national awards

Courtney Mabeus, a reporter for the Virginian-Pilot, has won a fist-place honor in the Headliner Awards for a story that detailed the journey of one transgender man’s time as a sailor in the U.S. Navy.

Mabeus’s story, “No turning back: The story of a transgender man’s experience as a Navy sailor,” won first in the news series in newspapers not in a top 20 media market category.

Judges said: “This was a compelling, timely and human bit of storytelling that took hard work: Access, time, sensitivity, clear-mindedness and courage. We kept talking about this story for days after reading the entry. Readers were given an important glimpse of an issue that is an increasing part of the national conversation.”

Kristen Zeis, a multimedia journalist at the Pilot, won third place in the online slideshow category for her photographs that accompanied Mabeus’s story in “No turning back.”

Former DNR photographer displays photos in new exhibit

Allen Litten, who worked as a photographer at the Daily News-Record for more than half a century, currently has an exhibit of some of his most iconic photos on display in a Harrisonburg museum.

The display, “Allen Litten: The Valley’s Observer” features photos spanning the more than 50 years he spent documenting major events and life in the Shenandoah Valley.

Litten, 83, retired from the Daily News-Record in 2004. He now volunteers for the Harrisonburg Police Department as a photographer. The display will remain up until the end of summer.