Sold, but still free 

For the first time in three years, Mike Potter sees a real vacation on the horizon. Since co-founding the Whitefish Free Press in 2003, Potter has been the owner, photographer, graphic designer, editor, distributor and sometimes reporter and ad salesperson for the free weekly.

But on July 27, Potter gave up the owner’s job when he sold the Free Press to former Whitefish Journal owner Ron Wright.

“After three years,” Potter says, “I just wanted to run the paper without the financial responsibilities.”

As owner, Potter says, he was working at least 60 hours per week and could hardly afford to leave Whitefish without fear of getting behind or missing an event. Now he’s hoping to enjoy some free time and a longer leash.

As the new owner, Wright says he plans to keep the Free Press essentially as it is.

“It’s a nice alternative,” he says, “and that’s the way I want to keep it.”

The only changes he’s hoping to make in the near future are adding a full-time reporter and buying an office for the paper at the Mountain Mall in Whitefish. During the last three years Potter could usually be found using local coffee shops as his newsroom. The paper has never had a full-time employee devoted to reporting.

Still, the Free Press has grown since 2003, when it began life as an eight-page paper. It reached its zenith of 56 pages, including an eight-page arts section, last October. For the last two weeks, the Free Press has been only 12 pages long, and its arts section has been missing in action due to the resignation of Tracy Eastman, the Free Press’ former ad salesperson, Potter says. He expects the paper to be back to normal by fall.

Once the transition to an office has been made and a full-time reporter hired, Potter hopes to finally take a short vacation.

“I’m thinking Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica,” he says.

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