Another Sign Of The Impending Collapse Of Civilization

No, not this photo of two grizzled relics of the print media,,,The sad story is below in the comments…We here at RLCrabb.com wish Mr. Russell a well earned retirement, and weep for Sierra County, who will now have to get their news from Facebook gossip, when the weather doesn’t knock out their internet.

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9 Responses to Another Sign Of The Impending Collapse Of Civilization

  1. steve cottrell says:

    Don Russell retiring? No, not possible. Say it ain’t so.

    I always pictured Don as someone who would drop dead at the computer (or in front of an old Comp IV) trying to get the last bit of local news into print before he was carried out of the office on a gurney.

    He never got rich off the Mountain Messenger, but he made Sierra County richer by its existence –– especially his sharp-witted, Font Page editorials that he claimed were examples of objective news reporting.

    • rl crabb says:

      Hi there, Steve. Don told me he might still do some writing once he’s freed himself from The Mess. I’m glad to see you aren’t letting your typing fingers get cold. Happy New Year!

  2. steve cottrell says:

    A snippet of Mess history:

    In 1981, co-publishers Jim Roos and Fred Cochran hired me to be editor of the short-lived Nevada County edition of the Mountain Messenger. They wanted to get some Nevada City/Grass Valley readership and advertising sales, so the front and back pages of each edition, (along with the inside of both pages, of course), became separate entities –– one for Nevada County and one for Sierra County. The rest of the paper (4-8 pages) carried what we used to call “crossover” news. (Although I doubt if many Nevada City readers were much interested in the Loyalton City Council election).

    Early in 1982, it became clear that Nevada City/Grass Valley could not support two weekly newspapers and that The Mess would surely be first to fall. So when I heard a rumor that Independent publisher Dave Fluke was looking for a new editor, I walked down Spring Street and asked for the job. Dave hired me that day for the princely sum of $100 a week –– the same pay I was getting from the Mess.

    That summer, however, events took an unexpected turn. Although I was convinced that The Independent would outlast the Nevada County edition of the Mess, I was proven wrong. Despite a great staff and contributors that included Dave Carter, David Parker, Pam Wood, Dan O’Neil, Craig Hoddy, Bob Lickter, and Bob Crabb, (and a bunch of folks I’m forgetting at this moment), Fluke let us print one final edition, then he closed the door and turned off the lights.

    Right after Fluke said we were going to cease publication, I called Fred Cochran and asked to meet him and Jim Roos at Framastanyls for a cold beer. The first thing I did at that meeting was admit that I had picked the wrong horse and pleaded for a stall in the Messenger stable. It was not an easy conversation, but one I needed to have if I wanted to stay employed.

    After chiding me and laughing at the awkward situation I found myself in, they offered me a job –– managing editor, (not just editor) –– and a raise to $125 a week. A few months later, Jim and Fred purchased The Independent’s good name and we became The Independent-Messenger –– a weekly that struggled for a few years before its regrettable death.

    Not sure who gives a flyin’ goddamn today about weekly newspaper life in Nevada City in the early 1980s, but thought this was a good time to explain at least a snippet of that history for the sake of posterity.

    • Chris Peterson says:

      I believe your photographer was John Bonner, who was also the drummer in my brother Roger’s band, at the time. John’s the one who came down from the office and snapped a photo of my 5 y.o. daughter, Darcy, putting a quarter in the meter in front of Frams to keep the meter maid from writing Edsel Cross a ticket for having his horse tied to an expired meter. You folks ran it as your front page photo, which we still have framed on our mantle.

      • steve cottrell says:

        Yikes! I should have included John Bonner when I mentioned former Nevada City journalists –– but glad you did. He was a photographer at the Independent and later shot pix for the Nevada City News. And as Johnny Cub, he had a weekly column called Death Row Appeal, where cats and dogs slated for execution at the pound were featured in hopes that a home could be found for each of them. (And he was a hell of a drummer to boot).
        I also forgot to mention Bette Worth, Ed Falick and Terry Pittsford. And I forgot Laurie McIntosh, who contributed weekly profiles for the NC News in 1990. And, of course, the dean of all Nevada City columnists –– Bob Paine.
        When the NC News was in operation, Bob would drop by the office every week with an old column he had written for The Union or Independent in the 1960s or ‘70s, with a fresh intro scribbled on a note pad. I would massage the old column where massaging was needed, and we would run it as if he had written it in 1990 or ’91 especially for the News.
        One day, Bob called and said he was a bit under the weather and wouldn’t have a column. I told him I’d write it for him –– all I needed was a topic. I had been rewriting his columns for months, so I understood his style and manner. He gave me a topic and I proceeded to create a Bob Paine column that he never wrote. Can’t remember the topic, but Bob was pleased when the paper arrived at his home a few days later.
        In any case, Chris, thanks for recalling John and for giving me a chance to acknowledge a few others. A reunion of local journalists from weekly newspapers during the ‘70s–’90s would take a pretty big hall, that’s for sure. But what great stories would be told –– and some stories might actually be true.

  3. rl crabb says:

    Thanks, Steve. It’s a good account of the musical chairs we occupied during those heady days when we thought we could make a living on newspapers. ( And you didn’t even get the the Nevada City News, the last weekly to cover the little big city.)

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