|Carl Butz ponders what to put in his first edition of the Mountain Messenger. (New York Times photo by Jenna Schoenfeld)|
"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," Arango reports. "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."
|Sierra County; Plumas is to its north|
Butz told his readers in an introductory letter that he bought the paper because “The horrible thought of this venerable institution folding up and vanishing after 166 years of continuous operation was simply more than I could bear” and the paper is “something we need in order to know ourselves.” The Messenger is the only paper in Sierra County, pop. 3,240, but also serves part of Plumas County. It "relies mostly on publishing legal notices from the county and other government offices, which brings in about $50,000 a year, for the bulk of its revenue," Arango reports.