It’s Your Birthday, A News Cafe!

Happy birthday, A News Cafe! Illustration by Phil Fountain.

Illustration by Phil Fountain.

Birthdays always make me feel nostalgic, and it’s no different with A News’s birthday. This week marks A News’s ninth birthday. Nine years! Where did the time go?

To commemorate A News’s birthday, I have two things to share.

First, I give you a link to an archived column I wrote that first week of the site’s birth on Nov. 4, 2007, “I think it’s going to be good”. Click here to read it.

It had been a few years since I’d read it, but reading it brought a flood of memories.  I wrote that column shortly after I’d been booted from my 10-year newspaper career. In retrospect, I was in shock. I was fired on a Wednesday. By that Sunday son Joe Domke had come up with the idea of  – “a baby blog” –  which he and friend Jim Gore created for me. But all the while, I was pretty freaked out about my lost career, and where I was going. My future felt murky.

But all wasn’t lost, I told myself. At least I had my dream house in Igo, and was married to that guy who adored me.

As an aside, I kid you not, when I wrote that sentence I literally laughed out loud. Not a crazy laugh, but an ironic, wise laugh. I laughed without a twinge of pain. Not even a tingle. How far I’ve come.

Wow. If I had only known then what I still had to face – personal challenges that would make losing my career look like a walk in the park – I’m not sure I would have believed it, or believed I could have survived it.

But here I am. Not only did I survive, but I’ve thrived. And so has A News Of course, without you, there’d be no A News And without advertisers, sponsors and contributors, there’d be no A News It takes all of us to make this site work and continue to grow.

No segue, but did I ever tell you that one of my former partners predicted that without him as the business manager, I’d run the business into the ground within two years? Guess what? He was almost right. But I pulled out of a nosedive and stabilized the site (with lots of help). And here I am. And here you are. And here is A News, with visitor and traffic numbers that have continued to climb to the point where were are now, with tens of thousands of loyal, monthly unique visitors, and millions of page views.

Truly, I’m as surprised as anyone. And that’s why I never take any of the site’s success for granted.

The second thing I want to share today is a birthday gift from A News to you. It’s called Convo Cafe, and it’s something I’ve wanted for a long time. Credit goes to the dynamic duo of Joe Domke and Jim Gore for months’ worth of work and programming to make my wish a reality.  I thank the talented Matt Briner for coming up with Convo Cafe’s design.


Convo Cafe begins today. Scroll down the home page where you’ll find it waiting for you. It works similar to our comments section below every post, but Convo Cafe is its own post. We’ll start a fresh one each week.

The difference between Convo Cafe and the rest of the posts on A News is it’s your section for your topics and your conversations. Before Convo Cafe, all comments were content-driven, the byproducts of posts published here on A News

With Convo Cafe, you can choose the subject and start your own conversation.

Maybe you want answers, about anything you can imagine – whether it’s how to get your gas fireplace to start (I could have used that help last night), or where to get used tap shoes for your kids, or where to find a lamp-repair shop, or tips on the best place to cut Christmas trees, or maybe you’re faced with a vexing moral dilemma.

Ask in Convo Cafe, and I guarantee you’ll get answers.

Perhaps you are a member of a club that has something fun going on (and your press release didn’t make it onto A News, or your neighborhood is having a group yard sale, or your kids’ school is having a car wash fundraiser, or you’re curious about new construction, or an old business. Mention it in Convo Cafe.

This is new, so no doubt we’ll learn some things along the way. And I’m sure there are details and potential pitfalls I’ve overlooked, which will become abundantly clear in no time.

I trust that we’ll all use our best judgment and best manners on Convo Cafe. Yes, a smarter publisher might provide a whole list of rules and guidelines for Convo Cafe – and maybe I’ll wind up doing that eventually. But my gut says that A News readers will be as civilized and helpful in Convo Cafe as they are in the comments section.

Sure, we have our occasional troll or flame-thrower here on A News, but they’re blessedly rare. And when they do surface, we can count on the sharp-eyed Barbara Rice and Joe Domke to show the most ill-mannered folks to the door with the stroke of a key.

Even so, I confess that I’m a little nervous about rolling out Convo Cafe. After all, not everything we’ve tried on A News has worked. Remember the real estate section, the auto section, the forums, the community calendar, the quote for the day and the artist’s corner — to name a sample? Those all flopped, and we eventually removed them. Every flop felt like a failure; and every failure felt like an embarrassment.

I sincerely hope that the Convo Cafe is a success. I hope you all love it as much I loved the idea. We’ll never know until we try, right? But truly, I’m an optimist, because in my heart of hearts, I think it’s going to be good!

Happy birthday, A News Cafe!

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as 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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43 Responses

  1. Congratulations — MANY businesses have come and gone over the last nine years –  so happy that A News is here and thriving. Make a wish, blow out those candles and give yourself a high five!

  2. Andrea Andrea says:

    Wow!  9 years!  Awesome job and continued success!

  3. Avatar Eleanor says:

    Yay for you, Doni!!   You are an example we could all hope to live up to in terms of not just thriving, but blossoming (although a beautiful shadow of your former self!)     I don’t recall any of those news cafe ‘failures’ btw.  You are so, so talented, and you share all credit where it belongs.   (Not everyone does that, ya know.)

    Celebrate the day!   You’re amazing!

  4. Avatar Darcie says:

    Opportunity does not just come along, it is there all the time – we just have to see it and be willing to work hard for it.  I know you have put blood sweat and tears into ANC.  We all enjoy ANC everyday because of your special talent, energy, dedication and sacrifices.  To sponsors and advertisers thank you for making it possible to have this supportive community gathering place.  Hard to believe how much you and ANC have grown in 9 years!

  5. Avatar Ginny says:

    Sometimes people don’t understand how long and how very much work it takes for a business to succeed, and through all the rough times, you are still here and better than ever!

    Thanks, Doni, for sticking with it.  You deserve a huge cake and many, many kudos:  Happy Birthday!

  6. Avatar Steve Fischer says:

    Don’t you love it when a plan works? and from out here it has all seemed purposeful and smooth. Congratulations and wishes for nine more – as long as it stays fun.

    • Yes, I do love it when a plan works. I’m blessed in so many ways, but the truth is I had no plan, but things turned out fine despite that.

      It’s still fun, and I’m glad you’re here, Steve.

  7. Tom O'Mara Tom O'Mara says:

    All the congratulations are well deserved. is a wonderful presence which enriches our north state experience immeasurably. And every experiment is a step in the right direction.Kudos you you, Doni, and all contributors.

  8. Doug Cushman Doug Cushman says:

    Boy, do I remember those early days. I feel blessed that I was able to be a tiny part of those early years with a News Cafe. You’ve come so far in both the news site and your personal journey. I think that what you’ve said in another comment is your secret; no plan but being flexible—and creative–enough to follow your passion and heart wherever it leads you, bumps and burps be damned. It’s worked for me and many others and obviously has worked for you. Doni, you’re an inspiration. keep doing what you’re doing. Happy Birthday and may the next 9 years be even better! Big kiss and hugs from WAY across the ocean from a friend and fan;-)

    • Well, Doug, you inspire me, so your words mean a lot.

      And actually, I never planned to not plan, but I do think that at least for me, being nimble and flexible and letting creativity and passion be the driving forces are my secret (and yours). I love it: Bumps and burps be damned. Amen!

      I’ll take virtual kiss and hug from across the ocean, and send one back your way.

      Always, your friend and fan

  9. Avatar Tim Hearden says:

    Congratulations, Doni, for creating a truly independent and vibrant web-based news outlet. You’re a model for any journalist whoever strikes out on his or her own, showing that it can be done successfully.

    You know, November is an anniversary month for me, too. Almost a year to the day after you left the paper, I gave notice that I would be coming to the Capital Press, where I’ve been for eight years this month. I’d seen too many good people get shown the door, one way or another. I’m not saying I had great relationships with all involved, but our local paper’s newsroom lost something like 70 to 80 years of institutional experience and knowledge in the course of a year after that editor took over, and now it has half the paid subscribers it had when we left.

    But enough looking back. You and your website are the future of media. You do in-depth stories on issues such as the homelessness crisis that start valuable community conversations, all while providing a local flair and flavor that others can’t match. So here’s to another nine years and beyond.

    • Doesn’t it seem like a million years since we both worked at the paper?

      Thank you for the kind words. Best of luck to you with your career, too.

      • Avatar Tim Hearden says:

        Actually, it does and it doesn’t feel like a million years. It seems like so much has happened since we worked at the paper, but I can’t believe I’ve been with the Capital Press for eight years. It seems like I’m still just learning the ropes when it comes to ag, which makes this such a great job. You literally learn something new every day. I’m sure it feels much the same running a news site.

  10. Avatar Hollyn Chase says:

    Congratulations and Happy Birthday! I think Convo Cafe is a fabulous idea and I suspect it will be a hit with your regulars.

  11. Avatar Doug Mudford says:

    Hey Doni

    You should feel so good about where you are, partly because it was such a damned difficult trip. I was fortunate enough to have been a fan before A News Cafe was conceived.

    Because of you, A News Cafe has become an important part of our community. It’s a place where differing views can be discussed in sometimes passionate but always civil terms.

    There is so much that upsets me about the rude and cruel language used at all levels of communication…too much vitriol, too little thought. A News Cafe sets an extremely high standard for civil discourse, while still allowing aggressive debate, humor and reflection.

    You are onto something good…you are someone good…

    Happy anniversary!




  12. Avatar Karen C says:

    Doni, congratulations, you have hit a milestone.  I have so many fond memories of your publications in the Searchlight.  I loved them all, and looked forward to each and everyone, especially when your son was in the service and so far away.  I missed you for so long and was most happy when A New Cafe was born.  I stop buy every few days to read what is what.  You have done a great job.

    Looking forward to your next “The Weight is Over” column, I have been  following that religiously and enjoying every reading.  Best wishes with you new Convo forum…

    • Thanks, Karen, for the nice words.  I, too, have fond memories of those good years at the paper.

      And there will be a Weight is Over column Thursday, with new photos. I think you’ll approve. 🙂

  13. Avatar roy says:

    WOW 9 ? Happy Happy day, and heres to many more.??

    • Birthday 9 is fine! And who knows what the future holds. For sure, though, I’m already thinking of a big bash to celebrate A News Cafe’s 10th birthday in November of 2017. Let’s see, there’s the venue, and the food, and invitations, and music …. 🙂

  14. Avatar mike boehlert says:


    i would be happy to donate a couple cases of wine to your 10 yr bash to add to the festivities.

    long time no see.

    mike boehlert, lover of blackberry creole duck with a fine local merlot says hello.

    still have that great recipe (and make it) you got for me, and still appreciate it.

    glad to see you are still so strong after all these years.

    cannot believe we do not run into each other from time to time

    keep up your fine work,


    • Mike, I love you and your family, and I love your wine. I am so touched and honored that you’d donate a couple of cases of wine for our 10-year bash. I gratefully accept. Thank you!  (Guess that makes the bash official!)

      And I hope one day we will run into each other. xod

  15. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Whoa!  We’re doing duck breasts for Thanksgiving.  Would them lend themselves to the blackberry creole duck recipe?

  16. Avatar Janet says:

    9 years…Congratulations!

  17. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:


    From a guy who likes to flap his lips now and then, thanks for providing A News Cafe as a forum.  It’s an honor to be considered part of the talent given the company—the owner included.  It’s also been a pleasure to get to know your regular readers/commenters, most of whom seem to appreciate the higher standard of discourse and reduced flame level compared with so many other news websites. (As someone who in the past enjoyed a game of “who can throw the sharpest darts?” I still occasionally have to be reminded to simmer, but I’m coming along.)


    • Steve, you are among my favorite “lip-flappers” on A News Your comments are often so meaty that they could be considered columns in their own right.

      I’m delighted to have you here on this site as a reader, commenter and author. Thank you!


  18. Avatar Bruce Ross says:

    Happy birthday to A News Cafe!  Its mama definitely deserves a party.

  19. Avatar Pam S says:

    Hi Doni I am a relatively new subscriber this year and I add my hearty congratulations for nine years!  What stands out for me, as stated beautifully in a few of the comments above, is that ANC  brings such a high level of conversation and so different from most everything else that we get in the way of news. So many of your articles and the comments that people make really bring a smile and lift my heart.You are a rich contribution to our community and no doubt having a positive influence in ways that you will never even know. You are creating community and that is so important.  Your willingness and courage to experience “failures” are one of the keys to your success. I actually look forward to reading the news nowadays…celebrate yourself my dear!

    • Pam, you’re a perfect exactly of how A News continues to grow. I have to constantly remind myself that every day we have new people here for the first time, and my goal is to make his a welcoming, lively and interesting enough place that they’ll (you’ll) keep coming back.

      Your comment lifted my heart, and for that, I thank you. I’m so glad you’re part of the A News family.

  20. Avatar Terry says:

    As the kids say, “You Rock, Doni!”  You have nurtured your baby to its ninth year, and it’s thriving, too.  What a great role model you are for us all.  Well Done and Thank You!

  21. Good evening, dear ones. I have two sets of tickets for Riverfront Playhouse’s “The Man Who Came to Dinner”  for 7:30 p.m., Wed. Nov. 16.

    The first two people (or four singles) who email me that you want them will have the tickets in the mail heading your way.


  22. Avatar Cindy Moore says:

    Congratulations, Doni!  What an amazing contribution A News Cafe has been to the Redding community and beyond.  I’d say the success of this venture is due in large part its creative, energetic, forward-thinking publisher . . . . that would be you!

  23. It’s a great idea Doni – it will succeed – thank you for such a wonderful on line Newspaper – I’ve been there from the beginning too – have learned so much from you and love your writing!!Congratulations  and may you have continued  success!