Day Two

Good morning, everyone. (Good afternoon, Joe and Marie.)

My son Joe (this blog’s creator, all the way from the Czech Republic) tells me that this blog, since its birth yesterday, has received more than 2,700 hits. Not bad for a baby blog.

Thank you for reading this blog and posting comments. About those comments, I’d like them to remain civil, even in the face of great angst, protest and frustration.

I’m reminded of a column I wrote a few months ago about my disgust with anonymous redding.com comments that were hateful, obscene and/or racist. I was fed up. I said I’d stop reading them. (I eventually ate crow and waded into the comment section last week to post comments to answer readers who wondered where I’d gone.)

It would be hypocritical to now allow nasty comments on my blog, so I won’t.

Speaking of comments, in today’s Record Searchlight all the letters to the editor are about my “departure” from the paper. Although Bruce Ross is the editorial page editor, he couldn’t have published those letters without the editor’s approval.

Of course, they know and I know that the letter tide will quickly turn with letters from people who’ll celebrate my absence. Good riddance, they’ll say, we never liked Doni anyway.

That’s balance. I’m fine with it. That’s what a good newspaper does.

Good newspaper. Now there’s a moving target. Consultants preach the gospel that the key to newspapers’ success is to capture that younger demographic, the 18 to 30-somethings, and certainly anyone under 40-something market.

One consultant speaks to newspapers all over the country. He tells how to improve design, how to know what the majority of readers want and how to hold circulation numbers steady. (No promises about getting new readers.) Bigger photos. More color. Shorter stories. More lists and bullet points. Edgy content that pushes envelopes. Readers love it, he says.

Well, maybe not all readers. He shows a photo of a cranky-looking older woman and says, “Ignore her.”

His theory is that older readers may call and complain about the mini-font size or not enough positive news and stuff like that, but newspapers should just ignore the bitching. Those older folks won’t dump their subscriptions. They’re hard-core, dedicated newspaper readers. They’ll keep reading, no matter what, until they die.

And when all those 50- to 100-year-olds die, newspapers will be left shaking in their boots. Younger readers are not replacing those older readers. (Why younger people aren’t into newspapers is a topic for another day.) But those elusive, younger readers are the very ones newspapers are lusting after, all over the country, not just at the RS.

More readers means more advertisers. More advertisers means more money to feed the expectant mother corporation and its hungry shareholders, whose stomachs keep stretching and demanding even more. They don’t want to hear about sagging circulation and fewer advertising dollars. The hungry shareholders just want their money.

To keep things in perspective, bear in mind that in recent history, most newspapers have enjoyed a profit margin of anywhere between the low- to mid-20s, up to 30 percent. Most businesses and households would be pretty dang happy with those numbers.

Consider that when I arrived at the RS 10 years ago, circulation was around 40,000. Now it hovers around 32,000, a pretty astounding number considering the area’s population has increased.

Sorry to get bogged down in numbers. It’s my way of guessing the reasons behind some – not all – of the changes at the RS.

I can only speak about editorial – since that’s where I worked – but because of a combination of budget cuts, buyouts, retirements and people jumping ship, it’s now operating with a far smaller stable of photographers, editors, reporters and copy editors. These are true journalists, trying their hardest to put out a good product despite the empty chairs around them.

I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that you’d be hard pressed to find very many RS employees who leap with joy at the thought of getting up and going into work these days. While they may enjoy the actual work they do, the atmosphere sucks.

The entire place feels flat and tense and stressed to the absolute max. I even heard a recent RS visitor comment on the paper’s morgue-like air.

Fear reigns. Fear of being overheard talking crap about the paper’s future with colleagues. Fear of being corrected for having a long face after being demoted. Fear of losing a job at the only newspaper in town. Fear of quitting and being unable to find a job with benefits. Fear of making mistakes on the growing pile of work with fewer people to do it. Fear of not being able to keep up. Fear of being “restructured” right out of a job.

Wow. What a downer. Forgive me, but it may take a minute for me to work through some newspaper issues.

I’ll bet we’ll all be glad when I start posting recipes. Stay tuned. Enjoy your Saturday.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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28 Responses

  1. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    Oh yeah? 50-somethings won't cancel? I did.

    When I realized last Sunday afternoon that the paper had been on a chair all day, unopened, I knew that maybe it was time to pull the plug. No regrets. (The only thing I feel bad about is that I FINALLY had a reliable deliveryman who didn't throw the paper into the blackberries.)

    Do under 30's even read papers any more? Or do they go on-line?

  2. Michelle says:

    Barbara,

    I am 32, and I don't subscribe to print newspapers anymore. I do get the Eureka Reporter (I used to live in Redding and worked for the R-S before leaving for the coast in 2004), but that is only because it is a free newspaper (yes!) and they deliver it to my home without me even asking. Otherwise, I save my money and just get my news online.

    Doni, it is just hard for me to be civil when the R-S is blatantly disregarding its reader base. If just burns me up that Reddingites are getting screwed in the process of all this staff-cutting and content-slashing, you know? And I also have some hard feelings still for the R-S following the way I was treated when I was pregnant there. I won't bore everyone with the details, but let's just say the former city editor made my life so difficult that I had to go on early leave because of stress and when I returned I had been demoted without my knowledge. Still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

    Anyway, I will try to keep the comments polite from now on. Love ya, Doni!! 🙂

  3. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    Oh, and that reminds me… your blog is your virtual home. In the same way that you would boot someone from your home who is being rude & abusive, you have the power to boot abusive commentators out. The web is large; free speech is not an issue. There is plenty of room for those folks out there. I do not allow flames & rude people on my blog; you don't have to either.

  4. Hi Doni,
    Your supporters are asking what they might do to express their feelings to the management of the Record Searchlight. . .

    I suggest they visit the following web page: http://www.rtdouse.com/DoniGreenberg.html

    All the best, Dick Douse

  5. Celeste White says:

    Yes, it's bizarre to have print publications bending over backwards to appeal (supposedly) to a demographic that, according to all the market research I've read, doesn't read all that much. My understanding, from everything I've read, is that this demographic pursues other interests with much more enthusiasm, as a group. Then, too, it's also odd to think about advertisers going for one single demographic at the expense of all the others. There are lots and lots of people out there with money to spend that are in different age groups. I have more money to spend now than I did when I was younger, simply because I've been working all this time and building up my professional expertise. And I am happy to pay for online subscriptions for periodicals that care about me as a reader and are responsive to my interests, and that are not generic corporate pap.

    But we know that corporations care almost solely about their bottom line. So we need to back up our unhappiness with their policy decisions that affect us by our actions as well as our words. If we feel that a publication doesn't care about what we want, whatever age we are, we should discontinue our subscription. And as someone else posted earlier, advertisers should be made aware that their advertising dollars might not be all that effectively spent on a publication that is dying and not only losing readership but alienating it. The corporations might only care about advertisers (as short-sighted as that is), but I would think, certainly, that advertisers would care about how many readers they are reaching, and whether the places that they spend their advertising dollars are ones that are perceived positively by their target audience.

    If we are unhappy about the corporate decisions and policies that affect us, we should not support them economically. Vote with our dollars, as my businessman dad used to say. We should support other entities with our business instead. I personally will not be supporting any of Scripps' properties, wherever I can find any other alternatives. Why would I support companies who mock me, denigrate me, and counsel ignoring me with their marketing seminars?

    This is excellent work that you're doing, Doni, shining light on things that corporate news organizations are trying to hide. How ironic that they have become the antithesis of what they purport to represent.

  6. Budd Hodges says:

    Doni…Hang in there lady…you're heading for the big time. Your dad, Don, did it many times and always hit the big ones like KGO, KNEW,and others. He wasn't a quitter as you aren't.

    I was fired so many times in the radio biz but always showed these "jonny come latelys" that their was always something better out there than them.

    I enjoy your new blog and will read it daily.

    Thanks for all the past columns
    and history of Redding. You bring back many memories of this area as it was once was.

    You looked good with Mike on KRCR News.

    Give em hell Doni. You're to good for the "Searching Redlight" and his dorkness Silass Lyons.

    My best to You wit much love, Budd Hodges, bdg741@aol.com

  7. gamerjohn says:

    I was one of those who felt that revealing my actual full name stifled my comments since my professional identity and business might suffer if my true political or religious feelings were open to the animal pack. I have gotten more radical in response to the flock. I urge people to ignore the trolls who seek flame wars.

  8. Shawn & Greg says:

    What a wonderful thing you have going here! Just read all of this outpouring of support! One more reason for us to move to Redding.
    Ya know it occurs to me that you could create a Redding News Website. Post opinions, have an actual two way dialog with readers. Yes yes recipes too (Greg wants that Pear tart recipe). Round up the other "dumped" writers and invite them to post. Advertise the site. Then sell advertisement on the site.
    Eventually print a small local paper that ties to the site.

    I really don't know the first thing about this industry but perhaps a little thinking out of the box is called for.

    I think Mr. Lyons has made a very very big mistake letting you out of that cage.

    Shawn

  9. Ruben says:

    Hi Doni!

    I haven't always enjoyed the "Wretched Flashlight", but I have always enjoyed reading your articles. I think your blog is off to a great start, although using the term "good newspaper" in the same article with RS seems a bit of a stretch. Keep writing!

  10. Katy C says:

    Doni,

    I am not sure if you remember me, but we were on the Activities Committee at the RS before I left in 2004. While this is a difficult time for you I can't help but think that it is a good thing. I am becoming more and more surprised by just how many of the "old timers" have left. I gave that place fourteen years of my life and while it was not all bad, it was fast becoming a terrible place to work. My only regret about leaving was not keeping in touch with people like Larry Shaw and Chris Nagy and a few others. Other than that, my life is so much better now and I am so much happier. I don't have the stress nor the dread of going to work at a place that did not value me as a person nor as an employee. Good luck in whatever you do and keep your chin up. Your columns always generated comments (both positive and negative) amongst the RS readers so I do not doubt that you will find a new niche.

  11. Greg says:

    I so love your name.

  12. Greg Asturi says:

    I think Doni should get on the ball. Join the club. Stir things up and get some dirt on the people who've trusted her all these years! They're sitting ducks. Veritable deers in the headlights. I can see it now. While discribing all the intricacies of a wonderful bouillabaisse she had the pleasure of sharing with "friends". She could let slip some tasty morsel she overheard with her NEW adoring fans. I can only guess that's how the conversation went behind the closed doors. Doni is one of the finest people I've ever met. I think her talents and integrity can best be served to a better end. This too will pass. The paper is floundering and grasping at straws. It'll be interesting to see what new endeavors this fine writer and chef sinks her teeth into.

  13. Maria says:

    I am glad someone organized the "March for Doni" on Wednesday, November 7, 11-1pm, in front of the RS (see Richard Douse's reply). I'll be there! Maria

  14. grizhawk says:

    Please keep writing to all of us Doni. You made me laugh and think and enjoy life through your conversations with our community. Good luck Doni!

  15. Senior Sue says:

    So sorry you were dumped Doni, but it's their loss! I moved up here from the bay area 8 yrs. ago and had taken the RS for a short time, but hate all the extra trash and is much easier to read on-line now. I don't quite understand all the politics going on with the staff at RS but guess is same as any big biz, and the turnover of new editors is getting old! $:o(

  16. Celeste White says:

    Hey, Doni–

    I know you're concerned about your colleagues at the Record Searchlight. What can we do to support them while letting the corporate owners, pubishers, and editor-in-chief know that we're not happy with their decisions?

  17. Stephanie says:

    Doni ~ I will be joining the March for you on Nov. 7th. I miss your wonderful comments on life and your recipe and food knowledge.
    you are wonderful.

  18. Kirsten says:

    To Warren and Doni- It's going to be hard to join you on 11/7 for working stiffs, but I'll be there in spirit……. if that counts
    Kirsten

  19. Jean Wilcox says:

    Doni you were not only a voice for us, you were a big help to me, and saved me money in the process with your articles and personal responses to us seniors who could otherwise have been taken advantage of in a variety of ways.

    I am deeply saddened and upset that you are no longer with the Record Searchlight paper.

    I first started subscribing to the Record Searchlight when I was 18 years old and there have only been a few years since then when I have not subscribed. However I am done now. I feel like I have lost a good friend. I am 62 and tomorrow I will be canceling my subscription to the Record Searchlight.

    I have always made it a practice to not frequent establishments where employees were not treated well, be it a Restaurant or whatever and this is no exception.

    Like another person said it somewhere, how hypocritical of RS to sweep this under the carpet when they so openly sue for "other stories".

    Doni you gave our paper a human touch and made it more ours. We will miss you ever so much!

    I do hope you surface somewhere where you are truly appreciated and I hope I hear where that is.

    Best Wishes in any and all of your endeavors.

  20. tom says:

    I noticed the paper went downhill since Kelly Brewer left and the paper was downsized.

    I live in Chico (grew up in Redding), and visit my parents once a month and was always impressed with the paper, especially since we in Chico feel we have more community feel and amenities and because of the university and the fact that we still have an old downtown etc etc — and therefore should have a better paper — but we don’t (er, didn’t).

    I read three papers a day (SFC, NYT, and the local ER), and did not fail to tell my parents every time I visited, What a great paper the RS was — covering every nook and cranny of the area fully, which CONNECTED the far-flung inhabitants of Shasta County. Countless times I told them how I wished such a high quality paper were in my town of Chico (although they have been improving since an editorship turnover about 6 years ago).

    What’s going on here is a death-spiral: cutting costs and staff leads to diminished quality which leads to cancellation of subscriptions. Cancellation of subscriptions leads to more staff and cost cutting, loss of advertisers, and lower quality. Pretty stupid.

    Remember the phrase from the baseball movie, Build it and they will come? You get what you pay for; you get what you plan for. As others here have urged, perhaps it's time for a new paper in Redding. Any investors?

    The new crowd that has moved in and taken over are likely presiding over their own demise, unwittingly.

  21. Fran Brady says:

    I was also disgusted with the anonymous redding.com comments that were so hateful and bitter and quit reading them long ago. Many people are ready and willing to fight WWIII on e-mail as long as they do not have to sign their name and stay in their home. You were a voice of truth in the community and I always looked forward to your reporting. This is just a temporary stop in your journey to something greater.

  22. Nancy says:

    I have not gotten the RS for about a year now – you were the only reason I renewed my subscription for the 2 years prior to that. I moved here from the midwest and your articles made me feel welcome and comforted. I like the way you tell it like it is… good or bad! I was so excited to see a link to your blog today when I went on line, shocked to hear about the so called paper, though. Keep writing – as you can see you already have huge fan base and it sounds like you will have readers wherever you write! 🙂

  23. Kathleen Mehl says:

    Hi Doni,
    I can relate to alot of what you describe happened at the Record Searchlight, my last year at the County Library was that way. We all lived in fear of losing our jobs & what was going to happen us….every day for 1 year. You know how that turned out, the new library was contracted to an outside company and not one previous Library Clerk is there. For myself, I've been unemployed for 10 months. I haven't gotten over the hurt, but I know you are stronger. Best of luck & keep on writing!
    Kathleen Mehl

  24. Shellyboo says:

    Good mornng, Doni! It is so heartening to read the overwhelming tide of support from such caring, articulate and extremely witty people. I wrote late last night, but my nickname "boo" may have kept me from being allowed…I loved what one person said about the new Doni being released from RS cage! The writers on this blog represent a vast segment of Redding/northstate, and it is refreshing for there to be venue where they can be heard. Too bad there had to be a sacrificial lamb for us to enjoy such a basic right as free speech…truth prevails, and the collapse of our former beloved town paper, whether by design or grave stupidity, will be the undoing of those at the helm.
    Have I told you lately how proud I am of you?
    …shellyboo

  25. Tom Blodget says:

    I noticed the paper went downhill since Kelly Brewer left and the paper was downsized. I live in Chico, and visit my parents once a month and was always impressed with the paper, especially since we in Chico, perhaps rightfully, feel we have more community feel and amenities and because of the university and the fact that we still have an old downtown etc etc — and therefore should have a better paper — but we don’t (er, didn’t).

    I read three papers a day (SFC, NYT, and the local ER), and did not fail to tell my parents every time I visited, What a great paper the RS was — covering every nook and cranny of the area fully, which CONNECTED the far-flung inhabitants of Shasta County. Countless times I told them how I wished such a high quality paper were in my town of Chico (although they have been improving since an editorship turnover about 6 years ago).

    What’s going on here is a death-spiral: cutting costs and staff leads to diminished quality which leads to cancellation of subscriptions. Cancellation of subscriptions leads to more staff and cost cutting, loss of advertisers, and lower quality. Pretty stupid.

    Remember the phrase from the baseball movie, Build it and they will come? You get what you pay for; you get what you plan for.

    The new crowd that has moved in and taken over are likely presiding over their own demise, unwittingly.

    Tom Blodget

  26. Doni
    I had been part of an article you had done on one of my family members. Your compassion and wording made it seem like my nephew was a local celebrity when his young life had came to an abrupt end. Thank you Doni for being such a caring and kind soul. You will be missed in the local paper but I have high hopes you will start your own paper and keep your commenting and knowledge circulating in OUR COMMUNITY. I will look for you all the time and I am sure I will enjoy your blog daily.

  27. cleveland says:

    Your columns gave a true meaning to special interest stories. Your warm affectionate stories relating to our community gave Redding a real personality.

  28. ckkern says:

    "Consultants preach the gospel that the key to newspapers’ success is to capture that younger demographic, the 18 to 30-somethings, and certainly anyone under 40-something market."

    Then they're FOOLS!!!

    As Barbara Rice points out, we "older" folks can and will cancel, and the younger demographic doesn't even care about the newspaper–they go straight to the Internet! The best hope any publisher has is us, the folks who grew up reading newspapers for our daily fix. . .not our kids who watch the video news, and not their kids who just grab their I-phones.

    Once I started reading the newest news on-line, I started feeling guilty for even getting a paper–and paying closer attention to what I was keeping that subscription for. The actual local news was still okay, but stale. The national and world news was often recycled two and three times. The sales flyers from anywhere I actually spend money get mailed to me anyway–so what was left?

    It seems ecologically unsound, but I was addicted not to the news, but to slowing down to pay attention to everything, preferably on the porch with a cup of coffee and the hummingbirds. The best parts of the paper were never the hard news.

    Readers like me are what the newspaper should be trying to keep–and we aren't interested in docu-drama sensationalism. We are interested in good reasons to slow down and pay attention: local news, good columnists and the funnies. Local news I can now get on-line. . .faster and cheaper. Good columnists on the actual masthead are dwindling to be sure. The funnies I can have emailed to me every day for a small fee.

    SO, I can save money, reduce my dioxin footprint, reduce the clutter in my living room, and voice my opinion about what a community needs from its newspaper by cancelling–what's not to like about that? The way I see it, they did a bunch of us a favor by giving us an overwhelming reason to cancel, even if they really did shoot themselves in the foot in the process. And, what's not to like about that?!?

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