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.

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Where are the Black Bears?

By Katie O’Hara-Kelly

Black Bears have been conspicuously absent in our neighborhood the past few months.  I saw a bear track in the snow in January, but no tracks since then. We haven’t even seen any bear scat locally!  Black Bears are primarily nocturnal, but I have seen them many times during the day.  They should be out foraging on insects, carrion, small to medium size mammals (mainly rodents), and vegetation at this time of year.  

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Editor Turned Paper Boy

Owner and Editor Carl masked for safety while delivering papers.

Running a small town newspaper isn’t always the most straightforward job. Some days you are fielding stories from multiple correspondents, laying out the weekly design, or in this case making the deliveries. In our case, owner Carl Butz has taken over the delivery route for The Mountain Messenger and is having more fun with it than ever.

On Thursday morning Carl takes a drive from Downieville to Quincy to personally pick up all the papers that are printed for the week. He then proceeds to make his way around Northern California suppling local business’ with their respective copies to distribute. Carl takes advantage of this journey and is quoted saying how much it brings him back to his childhood.

Due to the increased safety concerns stemming from Covid-19, Carl is shown above sporting his homemade mask to protect himself and others from possible exposure. So if you are a subscriber or a reader of The Mountain Messenger chances are Carl is the one that got that paper delivered adding the ever so personal touch to an industry moving in the other direction.

PG&E Fights Snow and Steep Slopes

DOWNIEVILLE — The powerful snowstorm arriving here on March 14 and lasting through March 18 brought down numerous large trees and wreaked severe damage to the poles, cross-arms, and wires bringing electricity to the western slope of the northern Sierra Nevada. Consequently, lengthy power outages were experienced in Camptonville, Pike, Alleghany, Forest City, Indian Valley, Goodyears Bar, all the residences between Downieville and Sierra City, Sierra City, and Green Acres, that is, all the communities located on the western side of Sierra County.

In response to these outages, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) mobilized their General Construction (GC) force, bringing ten crews of sturdy men to the area in order to restore power to their afflicted customers. Hailing from Fresno, Redding, Red Bluff, and Chico, over 40 GC workers spent three full days (Saturday, March 21, through Monday, March 23) removing trees from downed lines, replacing poles and cross-arms, plus restringing wires.

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