New Stuff at A News Cafe.com

This Friday, the first of September, is a good time to talk about what’s up and what’s new at A News Cafe.com.  If you’re here in the north state, I hope you’re reading this in a comfy place that’s air conditioned and indoors, safely away from the smoke, heat and fires.

“Angry Sun, Smoky Skies,”  by Matt Grigsby.

Community Announcements

As ANC’s audience has grown to more than 94,000 unique visitors in August alone, so have the number of requests for us to publish community announcements/press releases. The demand is so high that I literally cannot keep up with the requests, because in order for me to stay on top of all the emails about press releases, I’d be at my computer pretty much all day. This makes me feel supremely crappy, because I pride myself on returning messages.

Here’s our solution: Joe created a new Community Announcement section. You’ll find it directly above Convo Cafe, put there because we know that the comments sections are high-traffic areas.

The new Community Announcements section will contain four of the latest posts within the general category of community announcements. These posts will only appear on the homepage in that section. Keeping the press releases in this Community Announcements section will  help return us to a more healthy home-page balance of more original content, less press releases.

These community announcements will eventually fall off the home page as they’re replaced by new announcements, but they will also appear on the archive pages for their particular corresponding categories, such as “News”, “Living”, and “Events” – all of which are found on navbar tabs at the masthead, above.

For the event that needs more exposure, there’s always the option of paid advertising.

ANC webmaster Joe Domke made this section extremely user-friendly. Plus, for the first time since ANC’s birth in 2007, we will charge $20 for each community announcement that’s approved for publication. Payment will be automated, achieved by clicking the link that will take applicants to a form that will guide them through the process of submitting a post and paying their fee with PayPal or credit card.

Of course, yours truly, as well as ANC webmaster Joe Domke and admin assistant Barbara Rice, will have the discretion to post press releases outside the Community Announcements section. For example, if there’s an urgent public safety announcement about fire evacuations or a missing at-risk person, or something that says Bruce Willis really did pass through Redding where his car broke down and he was blown away by the kindness of our strangers, we’ll manually post those for free as a public service.

We may decide to do something similar with a reinstated Community Calendar. We’ll keep you posted. Whatever it is will be self-serve and automated. Yes, we’re that lazy.

New Talent

Talent! Do we have talent! Just look at this list and read those bios. I love every single contributor on this list, and feel so grateful they’re part of A News Cafe.com. Even so, ANC is constantly welcoming fresh content and new contributors to your site.

In January we added the uber teen movie reviewer, Robert Burke.

Robert Burke, movie reviewer.

His whip-smart video reviews appear every Saturday in his column, Robert’s Reviews.

In May, Redding-born life coach John Kalinowski, now of New York City, switched his columns up to include short, inspirational videos.

John Kalinowski, life coach.

We’re online, so we can do that, you know. I love these uplifting little clips. They’re exactly what I need, every time.

In July we welcomed Courtney Paige, a Sonoma County hairstylist/journalist/travel and lifestyle expert who’s also a gifted writer who shares her blog, Good to Know, with us on ANC.

Courtney Paige, Sonoma County Renaissance woman.

If you missed my Q&A with her, we learn a lot about her, including her bonus advice about hair for men and women. Hint: If you’re a guy with a comb-over, Courtney has some words for you.

In August ANC posted the first piece of writing by Greg Greenberg, a Redding medical doctor who created his column, “The G Spot” – especially for A News Cafe.com.

Greg Greenberg’s column, “The G Spot” is spot on.

His column is already gaining a reputation as being as witty, irreverent and informative as he is. Here’s what I know about him already: The guy is a column-writing idea machine, and in a few short weeks he’s already addressed the topics of addiction in Redding, compassion, and the Affordable Care Act.

Last month we had a close call when Doug Craig announced that his longtime column, “Free Therapy” was coming to an end.

Doug Craig is working on a new column for ANC.

But then came the good news: He’s working on a new column, just for A News Cafe.com, something different and more interactive. I will be as surprised as you when he unveils it. But I know it will be good.

And this week Femme de Joie of “Menu Please” wrote what may (or may not) be her final column, “Au Revoir”, after writing more than 400 columns during these last eight years.

Femme de Joie may or may not return from retirement for another column or two.

That’s a lot of columns and a lot of restaurants to visit at least three times each as an anonymous diner. And each review has been spot on. But over time, the comments dwindled on Menu Please. A rational person might draw a correlation between the popularity of a column and the number of comments. For contributors, it’s difficult to not take it personally when the comments are skimpy.

I was not surprised by the outpouring of upset readers who expressed distress at the news of Femme de Joie’s possible departure, because, let’s face it, she’s nothing short of awesome. What did shock me, however, was many of these people’s names had never graced the comments section of “Menu Please”. Yet they passionately spoke up here on ANC and on Facebook when they learned that Femme de Joie might hang up her restaurant review notebook.

Please don’t go! We love you so!

This experience with Femme de Joie taught me a valuable lesson, something I hope contributors take to heart, too, whether they’re journalists, opinion writers, feature writers, and photographers, or restaurant reviewers movie critics or a cartoonist (there’s only one Phil Fountain):  Just because your post lacks comments, it doesn’t mean your work wasn’t good, or that nobody liked it.

On the flip side of that, a word to those of you who may love a particular ANC contributor’s work, but you’re too shy to say so, or you don’t think your comment matters. Believe me when I say that comments matter to contributors, each of whom invests so much work into their posts. Believe me when I say that contributors are uplifted by comments, no matter how small. If you love their work, if you appreciate them and their talent, please take a moment to let them know. Who knows … your comment might make the difference between a writer keep on keepin’ on, or packing up the laptop and calling it a day.

Naturally, your donation is one of the most tangible ways to show your love and support for A News Cafe.com, your local, grassroots online journalism site.

Where was I? Oh yes, September.

In September we’ll introduce an engaging new column – “Therapy in a Nutshell” – by Redding therapist Patricia Bay, aka “Dr. Patty”.

Watch for Patricia Bay’s column, “Therapy in a Nutshell” to appear on ANC soon.

Look for my Q&A with her this week. She’s a woman of many talents, some of which may surprise you. She also has some ideas for columns that will range from life-and-death to light-hearted.

I hope you’ll like all the new happenings at ANC.  I know I’ve probably forgotten to mention something or someone, and if I have, I apologize. (But we’re online, so we can fix it live.)

We welcome your feedback. I only wish I had a little place for you to select thumbs up or thumbs down. Maybe Joe can look into that.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's 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's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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