New Stuff at A News

This Friday, the first of September, is a good time to talk about what’s up and what’s new at A News  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 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

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, 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, 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 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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32 Responses

  1. Avatar Karen Calanchini says:

    What an early bird you are, dear Doni, posting at 4:30 am. I, too, love my early mornings.
    I have posted of your talents on KNCR chat room, Carl Bott’s early morning show Also, On our Next Door, a virtual Neighborhood Watch, online. Both times, folks were complaining about a local nrwspaper and it’s shortcomings.

    Keep up the great work you are doing, I see great success ahead for you! I love all the new additions.

    • I wish I could take credit for the early-morning posts, but our system allows us to schedule posts and they go up automatically.

      Thank you for sharing my posts with others. I appreciate you!

  2. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    And all the information in this column is why there are 94,000-and-counting viewers. Now, if all 94,000 of us would contribute, say, $10 a month or even $10 a year, we would be guaranteeing the future of our favorite site.

  3. Avatar Karen C says:

    Great idea Beverly….maybe Doni is listening? Doni and all her talents (her staff of writers) make up for the lack of interesting journalism we have in Redding. This site is our go to place for the latest info, fun stuff to read, and insightful articles on many subjects. It just keeps getting better!

    I hope Menu Please does come back, because I have been missing it, and the experiences of trying new places I have never even heard about. Sometimes, those small hidden, and out of the way places have turned into jewels.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      Doni has said that she doesn’t want to charge readers, and that is commendable. However, our favorite site cannot exist without funding. Doni and Joe and Barbara and all the other people who make A News Cafe possible – they gotta eat. And Doni advertises on JPR. That can’t be cheap. So hit the Donate button and do a Nike: Just Do It.

  4. Avatar Darcie says:

    I am so excited about the new improvements to ANC. However, I have to take exception to one part of your piece, dear Doni. The “We’ll keep you posted. Whatever it is will be self-serve and automated. Yes, we’re that lazy.” Lazy would never be a work I would use for you and Joe. Many people think ANC is run from an office with staff. In fact, ANC is a labor of love and a huge amount of work. I know for many of us our morning would not be the same without reading ANC and coffee!

  5. Avatar Karen C says:

    My first post above should say, KCNR chat room. Oh, for an edit button! Must learn to not text from my cell phone.

  6. Avatar Karen C says:

    Donate button? I did not know…..will look for it. Thanks so much.

  7. Avatar AJ says:

    Let’s hear it for GROWTH….and EXPLORATION, and a willingness to be open to ideas and people. Along with what I think will be welcome changes, we are also getting a smorgasbord of viable information from additional sources. Yea us….and yes, YEA DONI AND ANC!!!

  8. Avatar Ginny says:

    What you have done over the years to make aNC a great site is wonderful. It keeps growing, and for the good.


  9. Avatar Joanne Gifford says:

    Thumbs up , Doni !!!!

  10. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    “Just because your post lacks comments, it doesn’t mean your work wasn’t good, or that nobody liked it.”

    I’ve often felt guilty for not more frequently leaving comments on Femme de Joie’s column. I always look for her column as well as Valerie’s “Mistress of the Mix.” I’d like to leave comments more often, but the fact is that I have trouble couching my comments such that I don’t come across as a self-indulgent rube.

    I think the answer is to have a couple of beers before commenting; I can then revel in being a self-indulgent rube.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      The gland that generates my fear of coming off as a rube only works when I’m attempting to talk to people. I’ve never gotten over the feeling that my spoken words are equal to wearing cowboy boots smelling of cow dung from western Colorado. Whatever juice is being squeezed out of that gland, it rarely reaches my keyboarding fingers.

  11. Avatar Mary Hoehn says:

    I am one of those sly but faithful readers.. never sure what to say and I’m not very witty
    I love your columns and truly enjoy all the writers that grace ANC. Thank you

  12. Avatar Eleanor says:

    Good advice about leaving comments, Doni! I can really understand how a dearth of comments could be disheartening. So often, I just can’t think of appropriate words (especially for Deb in Scotland, who blows me away every single time she writes). So, I promise myself right now to remember that it matters. And am also on my way to the donate button right now! Your column is always a highlight of my day!!

  13. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Doni, I would like, I’ve tried before, to donate but I see no option for setting up a monthly automatic withdrawal from my CC. Is the only option to just go to the donate each month and donate?

    • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

      Hi cheyenne,
      Currently PayPal does not allow a monthly automatic donation. They claim they will have this up and running sometime this year. So until that happens, yeah, you would need to remind yourself to donate every month. Thanks for thinking of ANC!

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        This is odd because I tried making monthly donations to Patriots and Paws using my VISA card but was told that automatic donations could be made only with PayPal. I wonder if there are various PayPal providers, something like various VISA providers.

        • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

          PayPal does allow for “subscribers” but they charge $10 per subscription – which Visa can afford (though it’s passed on to the consumer) but not so much for little businesses like ANC.

          • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

            Thanks for the explanation. I don’t use PayPal even though I seem to have an account, one I believe my husband may have set up. I’ve read so many unfavorable reviews that don’t want to use the service.

          • Avatar cheyenne says:

            Arizona Republic takes it out monthly while Washington Post takes it out yearly. Denver Post doesn’t charge at all. Many sites allow a set number of visits a month, even the Redding fish wrap but my local fish wrap won’t allow even one visit but I buy it off the rack because their digital is really terrible.

  14. Avatar Richard Christoph says:

    Doni writes:

    “….your comment might make the difference between a writer keep on keepin’ on, or packing up the laptop and calling it a day.”

    I had no idea that comments were of such importance and appreciate being informed.

  15. Avatar Cathy says:

    I always love the wildlife and nature photos posted on this site, but seldom comment on them. I will try to do better about that because I very much appreciate seeing them.

  16. Avatar Sharon W. says:

    I used to write a newspaper column. It drew occasional written feedback, which was (almost) always welcome. But my biggest reward was having people stop me in the post office or market to tell me they enjoyed my work. An anonymous writer doesn’t get that opportunity, so I can see how Femme de Joie might be discouraged. I, too, love her reviews and hope she stays on so I can tell her so.