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. 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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