When Westword debuted in September 1977, pundits around town were predicting the demise of the paper. People gave it a month, a week, a year at most. After all, the only business more risky than starting a restaurant was starting a newspaper.
And a free newspaper? Forget it.
People dismissed Westword as a shopper, a hipster Thrifty Nickle. But those people weren't watching the rise of free papers (the Chicago Reader, for example, whose founders informed us that Westword was an "alternative paper" -- a term we hadn't heard in 1977, but one that's since grown into an industry niche). And those people certainly didn't anticipate the rise of the Internet.
Today, of course, people want -- and often expect -- their information sources to be free. (Why should you pay to read this post?) That's one of the many reasons daily newspapers have had such a tough time adjusting to new realities. Fortunately, the already free-weeklies recognized early on that just as readers will recognize the value of content in a paper they don't pay for, they'll do the same for content on the web. And advertisers will recognize the value of those readers.
Thirty-five years after Westword's September 1977 debut, the paper -- and its website, and all its other platforms -- is still going strong, with a new deal that returns ownership to Denver (and brings a dozen sister papers along with it).
The best things in life are still free.
Westword has published thousands of stories over the past 35 years. But none struck as close to home as the piece about the death of Westword co-founder Sandy Widener, her husband John Parr and their daughter, Chase Parr. Click to read "Remembering Sandy Widener."