All good things must come to an end

Twenty years ago, a few of us local jour­nalists launched the Four Corners Free Press in Cortez. We wanted to offer an in-depth, alternative publication that would cover the Four Corners region.

Our first issue in September 2003 fitted with that mission – it contained an article by David Long about proposed improve­ments to the Four Corners Monument.

Since then, we’ve covered issues and topics all over the Four Corners. Condors and bison in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. An ATV controversy and illegal trail ride, a Salt Creek dispute in Canyonlands, and arguments over Bears Ears National Monument, all in San Juan County, Utah. The battle over the pro­posed but ultimately rejected Desert Rock Power Plant in New Mexico. Developer Red McCombs’ efforts to build the “Vil­lage at Wolf Creek” (labeled the “pillage” by opponents) in Colorado. And hundreds of issues here at home in Montezuma County: land use, political protests, crime, the environment, health care, education, and the economy.

Despite the fact that we publish just once a month, we’ve had countless scoops and exclusives.

We’ve won numerous awards, in mul­tiple categories, in the annual four-state Society of Professional Journalists Top of the Rockies competitions.

We’ve provided an outlet for freelance work by local reporters; opinion, human-interest and health columnists (yes, we used to have a health section); photog­raphers; and reviewers. We’ve publicized numerous local events in our arts section.

But time marches on and things change. Many people now get their “news” from social media. They expect information to materialize out of the air and land on their smartphones for free.

Once upon a time, we had a number of different advertisers. Then came the pandemic, the resulting shutdowns and an economic crunch. Many of our advertisers left and never came back.

We’ve grown older. We’ve lost some of our contributors, sadly, to death (Mari­lyn Boynton, Connie Gotsch, Phil Hall, Wendy Davis, Doug Karhan). Others moved away or took jobs that left them no time to write for us. We’re now basically down to one reporter (the editor).

And we’ve grown a bit weary, after 20 years, of still having people tell us, “I don’t pay for your paper because it says FREE in the name,” as if in their entire lives they have never grasped the concept of a free press. We’re also fed up with the thieves who grab handfuls of papers to use for fire-starter, as if we pay expensive printing costs every month just to provide some­thing with which to start a campfire.

So this is to be our final issue.

We wish you well, readers, and hope you are able to find the news you want and need elsewhere. It’s a challenge these days. No one wants to have to pay for the news, but very few people want to do the actual work of journalism for free. The idea of “citizen journalists” filling the gaps hasn’t borne out so far. Real reporting is hard work, folks. It doesn’t consist of just going to a meeting or hearing a rumor and then putting some personal rant on a website.

Everyone, it seems, despises the main­stream media these days, lashing out at it for not covering the right stories, being too bland and wishy-washy, being too biased, being beholden to advertisers, and so on. We’re rapidly moving into a society where there won’t be any MSM beyond a few grant-funded nonprofits. Some people will welcome that. But it does raise ques­tions about how communities will operate without central, broadly viewed sources of information about local meetings, events, sports, schools, and businesses. The new nonprofits are generally not based in small communities and don’t cover those day-to-day things.

So, without reporters going to meetings on a regular basis and acting as watch­dogs, many local governments and special districts will have free rein to spend and manage as they please.

Ironically, in the past few months we’ve received a number of requests for us to do New York Times-style investigations into local boards, to write features about unappreciated nonprofits and other very worthy topics, or to attend lectures, photo opportunities, and other events. Again, we have only one reporter, so all this just isn’t possible.

Fortunately, you do have other media outlets in the local area, so it’s crucial that you support them if you can.

We have many, many people to thank and we can’t possibly list them all by name. But thanks to all our columnists and reviewers – who wrote for us for free. It’s more difficult than people realize to come up with a piece every month. We’ve also had great local photographers share their work with us, again for free.

Thanks to the reporters and ad design­ers we’ve had over the years, who did get a little money for their work. All of them had to work other jobs as well, of course, because no one could possibly survive on the pittance we doled out.

Thanks to our proofreaders and to Duane Abel for his free comics.

Thanks to local law enforcement for their transparency and helpfulness in providing the incident reports upon which Crime Waves (written by David Long) is based.

Thanks to our kind and generous land­lord, Mitchell Toms.

Thanks to the many businesses and institutions that were willing to house our newsstands and wire racks.

Thanks to the people who helped distrib­ute the Free Press around the region.

Major thanks to the folks who, out of the blue, gave us monetary donations.

Special thanks to Pixel Right for hosting and oper­ating our website, which has a great archive.

Thanks to our (paying) readers and our subscribers – who will be getting money back for the issues they’ve paid for but won’t receive (unless you tell us you don’t want refunds). Just give us a little time, folks – we have one person who has to hand-write the checks and address the envelopes. DO NOT GO TO PAYPAL AND REQUEST A REFUND THAT WAY, THEY CHARGE A BIG FEE THAT COSTS MORE THAN THE SUBSCRIPTION! Call or email us if you have questions, 970-565-4422,

And our great gratitude to our adver­tisers, especially the following ones who stuck with us throughout the pandemic and were with us at the very end: Absolute Bakery and Café; Books; Cliffrose; Cortez Retail Enhancement Association; Dolo­res State Bank; Doobie Sisters; Empire Electric; Farmers/; H & R Block; Heidi Trainor; Johnson Law; KRTZ and KVFC; KSJD; The Local Pages; Maria’s Bookshop; Pixel Right; Shear Shack; Southwest Seed; and Trees of Trail Can­yon. You kept us going.

It’s been a fun run. Now we will move on to other projects.

From Editorials.