Happy Birthday, A News Cafe.com – Beyond the 7-Year Itch

About 2,604 of you were there with me from the very start of this website. To you 2,604, please bear with me as I repeat this story of A News Cafe.com’s birth for the tens of thousands who’ve not heard this before.

The story begins on Oct. 24, 2007, when I experienced a rather sudden, involuntary departure from my beloved newspaper job. More than 140 readers picketed the newspaper in protest, but of course, that didn’t change a thing.

Four days later, after my son Joseph Domke in the Czech Republic called and talked with me on the phone, he was alarmed to hear I hadn’t changed out of my pajamas all week and had embraced wine as a substitute for all major food groups. That very day he created a “baby blog” called “Food for Thought” – later to be known as A News Cafe.com.

The “little blog” was a way for me to continue my journalism career in this one-newspaper town – or at least pretend as if I were continuing my career.  I mean, where does one start with something like that? Friends Jim and Darcie Gore jumped in to help with the programming and support side. I contacted a few friends, who owned businesses, and they agreed to advertise on my puny blog. At the time, it was purely pity advertising, I’m sure.

Sometimes I have issues with timing, because it turns out we started this website just a few days before the recession hit.

Even so, by the end of that year, the site was averaging about 2,604 unique visitors a month. I was ecstatic. Imagine that: 2,604 unique IP addresses, many with multiple users, were logging onto our site each month!

Life was good. I bounced back from being fired and landed on top of the world, where I wrote from my dream house perched atop a gorgeous ridge with views of  deer, coyotes, rolling hillsides and heaven. Once again, I had a purpose.

The site continued to gain more readers and advertisers. As the site provided more content, I gathered up some of the newspaper’s former refugees to help with the site.

Sometimes I have issues with judging character, because it turns out I inadvertently invited one wily fox into our little hen house.

Feathers flew. What a bloody mess.

I won’t go into the ugly details here (that’s why God invented hyperlinks), but by the time the dust had settled I’d I lost (dumped) two business partners, one of whom was my husband/business manager.

Two nice things I will say about him. He made lovely furniture, and he was a decent business manager. Remember how he used to write those chatty quarterly reports and business updates? I do miss that, though I never did resume that duty. I guess that’s what I’m doing today, in part.

I changed my name, though there isn’t a week that goes by that someone doesn’t call me by my previous name. And, damn it, I respond. In all truthfulness, if you were to wake me up at 3 a.m. and ask my last name, I’d not say Chamberlain. (Side note for women. If you marry, and if you MUST take his name, keep your birth name for business. Not that your marriage will be among the 49 percent that crash and burn, but you know, just in case.) 

Honestly, in those early lifequake months, I just wanted to abandon the whole site and run away. I’ll tell you a secret: There was a long period of time when I’d go to a party or any place attended by clumps of business people, and after the small talk I’d ask total strangers if they wanted to buy a website.

Nothing against you. I loved you, and I felt so grateful to you for sticking with me, in sickness and in health. It’s just that there was so much pain associated with the website that it felt like hot wax on my heart.  I wanted no part of it. My heart seemed hopelessly scarred and hardened toward my little website love child.

I couldn’t find a buyer, so I stuck with the site, and gradually, I fell back in love with A News Cafe.com. Wonder of wonders, our numbers continued to grow, in advertisers, readers and content. By the end of 2011, we averaged 40,507 unique visitors each month.

Along the way, we went through about a dozen sales people. I finally gave up trying to find the perfect sales rep and appointed myself the one-woman sales team. Is sales my thing? Not really. Am I doing OK? Apparently.

By the end of 2012, we averaged 42,769 monthly readers. And in 2013 we had 45,073 unique monthly visitors. That equals about half of Redding’s population, don’t you know.

To my relief and awe, A News Cafe.com didn’t just survive, but it thrived beyond the deadly seven-year itch. The site stretched and grew and blossomed … despite a recession, a dissolution of a three-way partnership and the obliteration of my marriage to one of my business partners.

Here we are approaching 2015, and I am proud to announce that A News Cafe.com has averaged 51,587 unique monthly readers. Many months this year have seen more than 60,000 unique visitors.

Although I feel delighted and humbled by this success, really, I’m not surprised.

Dear reader, you are the reason for A News Cafe.com’s success. Without you and your increasing numbers of new, equally smart and civilized readers, businesses wouldn’t advertise. Some of you even go the extra mile, and send donations to help ensure A News Cafe.com’s financial health. Thank you all!

Dear advertisers – big and small – you are the reason for A News Cafe.com’s success. Without your financial support, we couldn’t pay gifted writers, journalists, photographers, a webmaster, and yes, occasionally even a cartoonist. Thank you all!

Dear community contributors, you are the reason for A News Cafe.com’s success. Without your talent, and expressions of boundless passion, information and expertise, A News Cafe.com would be a less-lively site, void of local personality, color, commentary and character. Thank you all!

You early 2,604 readers, the ones who were here in the beginning, do you remember the day one commenter’s typo called this website a “we site”? That term fit then, and now, seven years later, it still fits. A News Cafe.com is more of a “we site” than ever.

Seven years ago, I never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) could have predicted what would unfold between 2007 and 2014.

We’re still standing. And look how far we’ve come. Although I have no clue what’s around the next bend, or into the coming months and years, I do know that I couldn’t ask for anyone better than you to join me on this journey.

Happy birthday, A News Cafe.com. Happy birthday to us!

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was 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, CA.

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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67 Responses

  1. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    Oh, Doni!

    So, it is really seven years…….and so very many changes (probably for many of us) over the course of those years.

    Yes, I remember ‘we site’, which has grown to ‘everyone’ site.

    You are a beautiful, wonderful person, and an amazing writer. You paint such pictures with your words.

    Congratulations to you on all that you do, and all that you have come through, and all that you are.


  2. Avatar EasternCounty says:

    As one of the 2,604, I say congratulations to all of us but especially to you for not giving up. Now if a ton of the 60,000 would open their checkbooks, maybe “we” could afford a full-time business writer and hard news writer. I just clicked on the Donate button again and hope other fans will, too.

    • Eastern Shasta County, if memory serves, you were literally one of our first viewers and commenters. And you’ve helped support us from the start. We are humbled by your generosity. Thank you!

  3. Avatar Kathleen says:

    Congratulations!!! Here’s to many more years of continued success.

  4. Avatar Tom Diskin says:

    Hi Doni, Happy Birthday and congratulations on such a great and popular news site! I enjoy reading all the news you present to our community, and now it is my only local news site. You’re doing a great job, and obviously lots of other people think so, too. I’m one of your more recent subscribers, and I’m very glad to be here as part of your followers. Keep up the excellent work!

  5. Avatar Ginny says:

    I am so proud of all you have accomplished. AND, you will continue to accomplish.

    God bless………….

  6. Avatar cheyenne says:

    I left Shasta County in 2006 and always wondered what happened with you and the R/S but was too polite to ask. Thanks for the update and R/S’s loss is our gain.

  7. Avatar Canda says:

    Doni, You’re the original Little Engine That Could! Through all the hills, bumps, and rugged terrain, you’ve held on tight, and created a fabulous website. I love having anewscafe.com as my home page. I’m not surprised at the growing readership. This is truly a warm and cozy place to be. I know you feel the love your readers send you through comments. The interactive aspect of anewscafe makes it so inviting. Congratulations, Happy Birthday, and thank you for hanging in there when the going got tough. Love you!

  8. Avatar Peggy Elwood says:

    Without you the Record Searchlight is fish wrap. I’m glad I found the News Cafe and I wish you many more years of success..the News Cafe is a daily delight.

  9. Avatar Barbara Stone says:

    Happy Birthday and here’s to many more! (clink of champagne glass heard here)

  10. Jon Lewis Jon Lewis says:

    Feliz Compleanos!

    Very proud of your accomplishments and happy to have been a small part of the News Cafe family 😉

    • Oh, Jon, you play a big part of the our website family. Who else but you could so perfectly report on the Redding City Council, and entertainment. YOU, the father of D.A.T.E.! I’m honored to have you here.

  11. Avatar James Santos says:

    I do remember the start of your love child. I fell in love with this site from the start and always knew it was the place that could tell stories in detail and not be afraid of the truth.
    God Bless you and the good things coming to you in the new year.
    XOXO, James

    • I’m humbled by such high praise. Thank you, James, for keeping up with A News Cafe.com from afar. You have fans here! Blessings to you and yours, too. xod

      • p.s. I just learned that you are now Artistic Assistant for
        Cirque du Soleil. Congratulations to you, my talented friend!

        • AJacoby AJacoby says:

          James . . . could you . . . would you, write us a blog once in a while and keep us updated on your artistic endeavors. You are such a creative beacon in a sometimes artistic jungle.

  12. Deb Deb says:

    Happy Birthday to A News Cafe! I’m so excited to be coming in at Year Seven 🙂 You’ve come through so much, and I’m glad you persevered. Here’s to many more ANC birthdays! *Raises glass*

  13. AJacoby AJacoby says:

    First of all, I’m piss . . . ummm . . annoyed that I wasn’t in the first 2000+ readers. But I do think I was turned on to this site pretty early on. And for that I am immeasurably grateful.
    Secondly, I was one of those that was so, SO . . . annoyed at the R-S for their housecleaning of their most talented echelon (you, Jon Lewis, Kerry Reagan, Jim Dyer and even syndicated Dave Barry) that I immediately cancelled my subscription and swore (and swear, I did!) I would never pick up that rag again. Nor have I!!
    Thirdly, I am so extremely honored to be a small part of this birthday cake endeavor.

    Personally speaking, I think Canda’s description of “The Little Engine That Could” is perfect.

    thank you for hanging in there and letting the rest of us hang out with you.

    • Well, AJ, you’ve been such a loyal, vocal supporter and commenter that I gave you your own column, so it feels as if you’ve been here from the beginning. Just sayin’ 😉

  14. Heartfelt congratulations on the ongoing success of A News Cafe, and best wishes in the busy years ahead! (I’ll admit I really only subscribe to the RS to have a steady supply of newsprint and to see which of our parents have died. Nothing to see, here, folks, move along!)

  15. Doug Doug says:

    Holy Cow -7 years?? Yeah, I guess it was around Christmas time; I think my first “Postcard from Paris” was some photos of the Champs-Elysées lit up for the holiday Christmas… me standing in the MIDDLE of the Champs at night making sure I got the Arc de Triomphe in the exact center of my photo! But I was happy to do it for Doni and would stand in the middle of the Champs again if she asked. You are an inspiration, Doni. Bon Anniversaire and many, many more!

  16. Avatar Doug Mudford says:

    you are such a kind and gentle person.
    Throughout the last seven years,
    while dealing with serious personal issues,
    you always took time to ask how I felt
    and to tell me a joke.
    Thank you.
    You deserve all things magical.

  17. Avatar George Parker says:

    I can’t say that I’ve been with you since Day #1, but I have been with you from very early on. I used to post as GrinningDwarf, but I’ve become brave enough to come out! 🙂 Happy Birthday, Doni and A News Cafe!

    • See? You used to be known as the Grinning Dwarf (quite the memorable name), but it delights me to no end that you “came out” and you now use your real name (as most of our readers do). Thank you, George Parker!

  18. Avatar Carrie Dokter says:

    It was here that I learned of James Santos’ wonderful productions! It was here that I learned of Stefan Baumann’s art classes held in Redding! And countless other important discoveries I’ve made here! Thank you, Doni!

  19. Avatar Richard says:

    Congratulations on surviving, and now thriving after 7 difficult and challenging years. Doni, you bring a unique perspective and a civil forum to our community and your talent, compassion, and positive energy are very much appreciated.

  20. Avatar Sue says:

    Oh my, I can’t believe it’s been 7 years, Doni. You’ve earned every single one of your devoted and fair-minded readers. You’ve persevered through events that would’ve brought others to a complete standstill. I so appreciate you and all your contributors. Now, if each one of your 51,000+ unique readers would donate just $10 per year, think what firm footing you’d be on. Come on, people: it takes actual money to run this “free” website! I challenge you all to donate today. And here’s to 7 more years!

    • Well, Sue, I love that you’re a loyal reader. And I love the way you think. Thank you for the reader challenge.

    • Avatar Canda says:

      Sue, Yours is a great challenge, and I hope Doni’s loyal readers take you up on this. This cozy and stimulating website is totally free to everyone, and monthly or yearly donations from all of us would help secure our little jewel here in the north state. Look what one issue of the RS costs, and in my opinion it’s not worth a fraction of that. I second the idea, Sue. Whatdayasay readers?

    • Avatar Eleanor says:

      Good idea! I just did it.

  21. Andrea Andrea says:

    YAY YOU! Glad you hung in there friend!

  22. Avatar Ron M says:

    Happy times await you for the next 7 and on !
    Love your site and all who participate.
    Thank you Doni.

    • Yes, Ron, I think “all who participate” is what makes A News Cafe.com so cool. It’s as much about the readers who comment (like you) as the content. It’s a community, hanging out at a cafe, sharing news and ideas and information.

  23. Avatar david kerr says:

    E. W. Scripps merger with the Journal Company and spinoff of their newspaper divisions will happen in 2015. Expect major cuts, just as is happening with Gannett, publisher of USA Today, the Arizona Republic and Reno Gazette Journal. At the AZ Republic, employees have had to reapply for their positions. McClatchy stock is worth half what it was earlier this year, because it does not own profitable TV stations. I expect the LA Times and OCR to go back into bankruptcy.

    Stroll around Redding some Sunday at dawn and note how few newspapers are on driveways. Look at the quality of the ads. Are bankruptcy, foreclosure and other legal notices keeping the paper alive? The County could better list legal notices on its website where they would be accessible to search engines.

    The future is websites and TV. A TV station with an excellent website would be a great combination. Stories which don’t lend themselves to video could be mentioned on TV referring the interested viewer to the Website. Aggregators like the Flash Report and Real Clear Politics are the best way to find a wide selection of the best news. The best way to deliver ad circulars is to have them available on racks at supermarkets, pharmacies, libraries, etc.

    • Avatar EasternCounty says:

      I stopped my subscription to the Searchlight when Doni was fired. It wasn’t long after that the management found it necessary to abandon Eastern Shasta County because they felt it was too expensive to deliver here. Earlier this year, I decided to try their online edition for a month. What a joke! I subscribe to our local weekly online, and an exact .pdf replica of the paper is provided. With the Searchlight, an online subscriber has to hunt through various headings to find an article, and often, only older articles are available. Perhaps all “big” newspapers are like that, but it’s frustrating to try to find any news. One month was enough for me to unsubscribe. Thanks goodness — and Doni — for A News Café.

  24. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Happy Birthday A News Cafe!
    I’m almost at a loss for words to describe how I feel about this site.
    Many people kept their subscriptions going because of Doni’s weekly columns when she wrote for the main news paper in town.
    You could be at an auto repair shop and hear someone say…”but did you read what Doni had to say about that?”
    I was so shocked when Doni lost her job. That was about the time the Record Searchlight went off the track and ran a headline about a KKK gathering in Redding based on some internet gossip. The newspaper became a “cut and paste” from other news sources and “crime beat” newsletter. We cancelled.
    A news source is so important to a community, and A News Cafe is truly the news source for Redding. Weather, news, entertainment and a calendar of local events. Articles about everything under the sun including food, plants, music, community issues, people in the community and important city and county meetings. Best of all, the comments and discussion of any issue are welcome but are always informational and civilized. I admire Doni’s perseverance, and I love A News Cafe. Happy Birthday and many, many more!

    • Oh, Joanne, I’m nearly without words. Thank you! And I’m grateful for you, too. Like so many of aNewsCafe.com’s readers, you are a very active contributor. (I believe your photo is on the home page as I type.)

      I feel so fortunate. 🙂

  25. Avatar david kerr says:

    The Eureka Times Standard and Chico Enterprise Republic are pretty good newspapers, but without the nasty comments. Eureka and Chico have nothing like A News Cafe.

  26. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Happy Birthday Doni, You’re a survivor and have taken anewscafe to greatest of websites. Keep up the good work, love. Luv ya! ——> Budd

  27. Avatar Ron C says:

    I missed the food column you did in the RS. Wish you did a weekly one here on the site. Any rate congrats on 7 years and many more years to come!

    I never forgot the beginning days when u first started out and the transformation of the site over the years.. again, congrats 🙂

    • Yes, I remember that first day, and the ones that followed. Makes my heart pound just to think of it.

      I miss the food column, too. I keep meaning to restart that. Maybe now is a good time to do that. Thanks for the nudge. 🙂

      • Avatar EasternCounty says:

        I remember when you, Tom, Greg, and Smiddy (what was her first name?) came to the school district to hold a here’s-who-we-are get together. At that time you were writing just the food column, but Tom said that you would soon be writing more human interest columns. You did, we were the better for it, and they lasted until the current geniuses came on board. A News Cafe improves on those good times, but a food column would make the site even better. I do love the restaurant reviews because we get a “taste” of what we’ll be in for when we venture to new places. And Andrea’s recipes make for tempting reading. The holidays seem to put us in mind of food.

        • Oh, I remember that visit, too. Deb Smiddy was the publisher then. Those, IMHO, were the glory years.

          I hear you about the long-lost food columns. I’ll do it!

          (And I agree with you about Femme de Joie – one of California’s ONLY authentic restaurant reviewers, and our beloved Andrea Charroin. So much that’s good in life revolves around food.)

      • Avatar Ron says:

        Perfect! I could use some Christmas recipes 😉

  28. Avatar Former Magnolia Neighborhood Resident says:

    Congrats, Doni,
    Looking forward to many more years of news and stories. Remembering your R/S food column, and other writings. Thank you so much for your hard work and professionalism.

  29. Avatar Former Magnolia Neighborhood Resident says:

    ….And I’m still using your yummy limoncello recipe after all these years! Thanks!

  30. Avatar Dr. and Mrs. Swaim says:

    Doni, we love the newscafe! Many thanks and congrats for a much better alternative news outlet in comparison to the local brand x. Keep up the good work. We look forward to the new year and more good reads at the newscafe!

  31. Avatar Ginny says:

    Doni, I just decided to check on all the comments made since you published the original article on aNewsCafe’s birthday.

    They are wonderful. So many of us are proud of all you have accomplished in the last years! You have come out the winner’s award through all that has transpired.

    Wonderfully proud of you!