Downieville, Calif. (Wikipedia map)
Today's small, good thing: The oldest weekly newspaper in California was about to shutter, but has a new owner and will stay open, Brittney Mejia reports for the Los Angeles Times. The Mountain Messenger has been published since 1853 in Downieville, pop. 282; its main claim to fame is that Mark Twain wrote for the paper (as Sam Clemens) for a few weeks.

Editor and publisher Don Russell has been trying to find a buyer for the past year. He wanted to retire by mid-January, but was unable to find a replacement even after running ads locally and with the California Newspaper Publishers Association. In the paper's Dec. 12 edition, he put out a final plea for a buyer.

That's when Carl Butz stepped up. A fourth-generation Californian and a Downieville native, Butz has been a friend since Russell moved there in the mid-1990s. Russell tried to warn him the paper would cost too much to save, but "The next day, Butz came in with a check," Mejia reports. "Butz is aiming for a nonprofit model and wants to rely on more volunteers to help fill the paper, which for a long time has fallen on the paper’s two full-time employees, Russell and Jill Tahija."

Butz told Mejia it's important to save local newspapers. "There’s just been this rash of these things across the country; you lose the community," Butz said. "I think we need to have newspapers."

It's worth noting that Butz is pursuing a nonprofit business model. As Mark Glaser notes in a Knight Foundation article, "Local news publishers cannot depend on the old ways of doing business." The article offers five nontraditional business models for local newspaper owners to consider.