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California's Oldest Weekly Newspaper Saved From Folding

DOWNIEVILLE (CBS13) — California's oldest weekly newspaper, on the verge of folding, has been saved with an eleventh-hour bid to buy it.

The Mountain Messenger, published in Downieville, has been printing every week since 1853. Mark Twain even reported for the paper briefly.

Now publisher Don Russell, who announced the weekly would go out of business this month, has found a buyer to keep it alive.

"Almost giddy," Russell said. "I am delighted. I've been actively trying to sell it for a couple years."

Inside the newsroom he's run for decades, where archives are spread out everywhere, almost like part of the architecture, Russell got a surprise offer from a friend.

"I don't know how long it will take him before he runs out of money but, at least it's not dying on my watch," Russell said.

His friend, Carl Butz, is buying the 160-year-old weekly to keep history alive.

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"You know, Don told me, 'You're a romantic idealist and a fool, you don't want to do this,'" Butz said. "And I said, 'It's not news that I'm a romantic idealist and a fool.'"

The Sierra County paper was started in this once bustling gold rush town. Sierra County now has one of the smallest populations in the state.

"I think it's important for the community and the country as a whole to have local newspapers," Butz said.

Butz said he will look for new revenue models to help keep the paper in print. Currently, it has no website or Facebook page.

A small California paper with 160 years of coverage in its history.

"I mean it is an institution," Russell said.

Now it has a new opportunity for a future.

"The printed word will survive," Butz said.

The Mountain Messenger prints about 2,400 copies a week. Russell says he hasn't raised advertising rates for some customers in 30 years.

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