When editor Keith A. Stickley started a weekly newspaper last summer to rival his former employer across town in Woodstock, Va., he declared that his first goal would be just surviving the winter.

With spring on the way, Stickley said last week that he and his fledgling Shenandoah Free Press are alive and well. "We've got a little money in the bank and the bills are paid," he said. The staff recently got "a little raise," he said.

Stickley last year quit the Woodstock Valley Herald, owned by the prominent Byrd family, because, Stickley said, publisher Tom Byrd had ordered him to tone down the paper's coverage of controversial issues.

Predictions of an editorial bloodletting between the two newspapers have proved to be wrong, however, or least premature. Stickley said the publications are coexisting peacefully, and he boasted that his Free Press goes to more than 10,000 households. The newspaper is distributed free.

During the winter, he said, "Some advertisers didn't pay us very promptly, which created a bit of a cash-flow problem. But we've paid the phone bill. We're real pleased."

So pleased, in fact, that Stickley said he would like to start another newspaper in the next few months, perhaps closer to Winchester, Va. -- the headquarters of the Byrd family newspaper chain.