Month: May 2020

A “nut case” buys a mountain town newspaper to save it

Four months after acting on impulse, what has a non-journalist local hero learned about the romance and reality of journalism?

Carl Butz at his desk at The Mountain Messenger in Downie, California Heidi Plougsgaard

Originally published by Jacqui Banaszynki on Nieman

Fantasies die hard, or so it is said. And perhaps they are more stubborn in the hard-knocks, real-life world of newspapering. Every reporter is rumored to have a novel tucked in some hidden file in their desk or on their computer. Every publisher dreams of becoming the visionary voice of the community. Every everyone (reporter, photographer, editor, publisher) dreams of winning the Big P. (aka Pulitzer Prize, which, by the way, have now been announced for 2020.)

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Triple profile: A mountain town, a beloved newspaper, and an unlikely hero

A Google Street View of The Mountain Messenger in Downieville, California, taken in July 2015. The weekly newspaper still operates out of the second floor, above a beauty salon Google Images

Originally published by Chip Scanlan on Nieman Storyboard

Were it not for “Citizen Kane,” the tiny town of Downieville, Calif., would be just the latest in a long list of communities without a newspaper.

But one night late last year, Carl Butz was watching the Orson Welles drama about a newspaper magnate, and saw a new future for himself. He knew that the longtime owner of his hometown paper, The Mountain Messenger, the state’s oldest weekly paper, was set to retire and sunset the paper with him. Watching the screen, Butz thought, I can do that.

Continue reading “Triple profile: A mountain town, a beloved newspaper, and an unlikely hero”