Retiree saves California's oldest newspaper from shutting down

California's oldest newspaper saved
California's oldest newspaper saved 02:01

San Francisco — In the gold rush town of Downieville, population about 300, the Mountain Messenger has been rolling off the presses for 166 years, making it California's oldest weekly newspaper. Even Mark Twain once wrote for the Messenger.

For the past 30 years, its owner and editor has been Don Russell, a man who was ready to sell, but couldn't find a buyer until Carl Butz showed up.  
 
"I'm just delighted that I find someone stupid enough to take it over," Russell said.
 
Butz, a former computer programmer who retired to Downieville about a decade ago, bought the Mountain Messenger instead of taking a long vacation.
 
"I thought, 'God, if I'm going around the world and the paper is gone, I'm going to feel guilty for the rest of my life for not stepping up and, and doing something,'" Butz said. 

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The Mountain Messenger CBS News

According to CBS Sacramento, the Messenger prints about 2,400 copies a week and Russell hasn't raised advertising rates for some customers in 30 years. Owning the paper means doing just about everything. But it's worth it to Butz.

"This past year, the bank went away. The gas station has been closed. You know that the town is like dying," he said.
 
Now, the Mountain Messenger will live on.
 
"Local papers can be something to bind together a community," Butz said.

  • John Blackstone
    John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.