This Sierra Retiree Stepped in to Rescue a 167-Year-Old Newspaper from Ceasing Press

What’s next for the The Mountain Messenger?

Carl Butz, a 71-year-old widow and retiree of Downieville in the Sierra, weighed his options for his years ahead. Europe, perhaps? Instead, he chose to buy a local newspaper started in 1853 to save it from extinction.

According to the New York Times, Mark Twain was one of The Mountain Messengers’ most famous writers. But like many rural area newspapers, the publication had fallen on hard times. Enter Mr. Butz.

“The obituaries for the paper had already been written. Don Russell, the hard-drinking, chain-smoking editor with a blunt writing style who had owned and run the paper for nearly three decades, was retiring, and he seemed happy enough for the paper to die with his retirement.

“And then one night Mr. Butz was watching Citizen Kane on cable and thought, I can do that. He made the deal quickly, paying a price in the ‘four figures,’ he said, plus the assumption of some debts, without even looking at the books.

“Still, Mr. Russell, an old friend of Mr. Butz’s, was a reluctant seller. ‘His position was, it’s a losing proposition and someone who’d want it would be crazy,’ Mr. Butz said. ‘He called me a romantic idealist and a nut case. And that’s not a paraphrase, but a direct quote.’

Butz prevailed, and the paper now runs under his ownership. Find out how the fourth-generation Californian and a former computer programmer and labor economist gave a local treasure a lifeline here.

More Stories
Farm + Table

Hollywood’s Iconic Musso & Frank Grill Gets a Special Tome in Honor of 100 Years

The restaurant was most frequently featured in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Farm + Table, Makers + Entrepreneurs

Three Wheels, Two Vineyards and One Heck of a Time

A new company wants you to sip your way though Napa on a tuk tuk.

Life Outside, Water

Where the Highway Ends: Exploring the Lost Coast

It may not be easy to access, but this impressive stretch of Northern California coastline is worth the extra effort.