Tag: featured

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.

Editor Trapped, Billy Epps to the Rescue


Frontloader on Pearl St. in Downieville, clearing a bit of snow for the residents

3/19/20
This past Friday evening The Mountain Messenger’s editor, not feeling particularly well after a sleep-deprived week, drove up Saddleback Road, just west of Downieville, to his “little cabin in the woods.” On the way, he encountered his neighbor who was driving into town and he learned a couple of feet of snow was expected to arrive over Saturday and Sunday.

No problem, the editor figured, we’ll just have to make a track through the snow tomorrow or Sunday.

Bad figuring, but it took until Sunday morning before this became clear. The sky had dumped close to two feet of new, very wet and heavy snow on top of the foot already accumulated on the ground when the sun set on Saturday night.

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