Cheek was born and raised in Colorado Springs, where her parents were professors at Colorado College. She graduated from Palmer High School’s International Baccalaureate Program and then went to undergrad at Grinnell College in Iowa. After that she moved to Denver to work as a cub reporter for The Colorado Independent, but first spent almost a year living in rural China while working on an architecture book about unusual historic farmhouses by the Great Wall. She spent two years reporting for the Indy with a statewide focus on everything from arts and education to national political races. Her journalism experience also includes being a member of the Colorado Capitol Press Association, writing daily from the statehouse. She is now the news editor of the Montrose Daily Press.
Q: How did you end up in Montrose?
A: I took a break from reporting to go to graduate school (for writing) at Hollins University in southwest Virginia. There, living with my partner, Cody, in a renovated 1882 grist mill, I discovered a real passion for rural living. When Cody was offered his dream job in Ridgway, I knew it would be a good fit for us and began job hunting myself. Around that same time, the Storm Lake Times, the paper of record for the 10,000-person town of Storm Lake, Iowa, won journalism’s highest honor — the Pulitzer Prize. I realized that I’d missed reporting and that hyper-local journalism was, so to speak, where it’s at. In one of those moments of most splendid serendipity, I saw the posting for the Montrose Daily Press news editor position the very next day. It was in the stars.
Q: Who is part of your immediate family?
A:I’m blessed to have a big, blended family and an abundance of caring, challenging and inspiring parental models: my mother, Tricia Waters, and her partner, Vicki Burrichter, of Colorado Springs; my father, Timothy Cheek, and his wife, Song Hill, of Vancouver, British Columbia; as well a near-and-dear aunt, Bronwen Cheek, and uncle, Andi Klein, who live in Santa Fe — close enough to come up and ski! My partner, Cody Monroe, and our Pyrenees-German Shepherd mutt, Sheila, live with me in Ridgway and daily teach me the art of happiness.
Q: What do you do?
A: I write and read. In my spare time I write and read fiction and poetry. At the Press, I edit articles and report factual stories. I think the ‘big T’ Truth can be found in both places and believe that trustworthy, accurate and fact-driven journalism is the foundation both of Democracy and of vibrant civic life.
Q: What is your favorite photograph of yourself?
A:I like this one I’ve submitted for this article — Cody took it of me on, I think, our second date. We went hiking up above Gem Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. I already knew I was falling for him.
Q: What celebrity would you like to be for a day?
A:I would like to try out Angela Merkel’s famous gesture, the ‘power rhombus’, but only for a day — that job seems even more stressful than working journalism!
Q: What is your fondest childhood memory and why?
A: That’s a tough one! I grew up with an incredibly tight-knit group of friends, particularly female friends, and some of my very best childhood memories are of running around the foothills of Pikes Peak with them.
Q: What is the oldest item you own?
A:The oldest item I own is probably our dining room table, handmade in Switzerland in 1905, an heirloom passed to me by my uncle, Andi, who also happens to be a really incredible cook. Cody and I have done our best, and learned a ton about cooking, so as to do right by that table. It’s given us countless happy evenings with friends and family, and traveled across the country twice, in the few short years we’ve been lucky enough to call it ours.
Q: Who is your biggest hero?
A:Virginia Woolf. That woman can write the pants off any sentence and did so at a time when few believed women had much to say. Reading her work has taught me so much about what it means to write what matters with bravery, honesty and skill.
Q: What is your biggest regret in life?
A:Yikes! Ummm….. This isn’t so fair because I was quite young at the time, but I really regret letting go of the fluent Chinese I spoke for a while after my family lived in Taiwan for a year when I was three. I just think about the billion people I’d have an easier time chatting with if I’d just had the foresight to keep up the language practice!
Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A:Early bird all the way. Hilarious, I know, because I work the night shift at the Press!
Q: What do you love about Montrose County?
A:I’m already very taken with the community of this place. Even in my early reporting I’ve been astonished by the level of what I only know to call individuality among the people here. Folks have spoken to me readily, honestly and with feeling and they seem just as capable of deep listening. What is this ethos? Maybe it’s smalltown frontiersmanship, maybe the outcome of outdoor, healthy living, maybe good old fashioned integrity and civic-mindedness. Whatever it is, I love it.
— Interview conducted by Photojournalist Paul Hurschmann
“Get To Know” is an ongoing series that will spotlight various members of Montrose County through a question-and-answer format in hopes to better inform the public of the people who shape our communities. Send recommendations for “Get To Know” to email@example.com with the subject reading “Get To Know.” All recommendations will be considered, though none are guaranteed to be pursued and published.