Doni’s Life Remodel: A News Cafe.com is 10 Years Old!

A News Cafe.com is 10 years old! Cake by Sublime Bakery. Photo by Barbara Rice.

Many of you know this story, so bear with me as I share this with those who’ve not heard it lately. Like a mother who likes to retell the story of the day her child was born on his birthday, I always feel a bit sentimental about A News Cafe.com this time of year, when it came alive. But 2017 year is especially notable. A News Cafe.com is one decade old.

Ten years ago I was a newly fired journalist booted from my 10-year-old newspaper job at the start of the Great Recession in the fall of 2007. I was heartbroken and panicked, despite the fact that about 140 people picketed the paper in protest. I mean, the support was flattering, but it didn’t solve my problem: Where does a fired newspaper reporter find work in a one-newspaper town?

I lost my job on a Wednesday, and spent the next few days crying and drinking wine for dinner. Son Joe, then a 23-year-old newlywed living in the Czech Republic with his new Czech bride, spoke with me on the phone and suggested I go online.

I scoffed. I balked. I protested. Come on! I was a paper person.

As kids sometimes do, Joe ignored me. By Sunday he’d sent me a link to a blog. Just a little blog. All I had to do was click on it and write something.

Well, what the hell. Why not. Couldn’t hurt. So I wrote a few words. It felt cathartic.

By the end of our second day, my little blog had 2,700 unique visitors, a term in itself that was foreign to me at the time.

Eventually, my blog, a place I thought would contain recipes and stories about my life in Igo, turned into a news magazine, thanks to herculean efforts of my dear friends Jim and Darcie Gore, who were then fairly newly retired to Elk Grove. Did I mention that Jim is a computer programmer?

It’s rare for Jim Gore (left) and Joe Domke to work in the same time zone. Mostly they correspond with each other from their homes in California and the Czech Republic, respectively.

My first advertisers bought ads out of pity, I’m sure. Personal injury attorneys Dugan Barr and Doug Mudford were there in the very beginning. It turns out they’re both fine writers, and became A News Cafe.com contributors. Doug has a column called Reflections in a Mirror While Shaving.

Doug Mudford

Dugan writes opinion pieces, primarily related to politics.

Dugan Barr

Financial adviser Sherrill Bambauer was another of our first advertisers. Dugan Barr, Doug Mudford and Sherrill Bambauer are still loyal advertisers, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I was married when I started this website. I’d rather not go into the whole mess that evolved, and am not even going to include the link about my personal life quake, because I’ve so moved on. But let’s just say that it was a rather bumpy ride for A News Cafe.com at the end of 2009 and for pretty much all of 2010 when I got rid of two of my business partners, one of whom was my former husband, and the other was a former friend. I divorced them both.

I do recall my ex’s prediction that I’d run A News Cafe.com into the ground within two years without him as the businessman. There were a few times when he was almost correct, and I spent a few years whining that I wasn’t a business person, that I never wanted to be a business person. All I ever wanted to do was write, and edit, and work with writers. And maybe cook and wrap packages.

My daughter pointed out that I should quit saying that, because I was a business person, and I was doing just fine. By that point I’d blown through a bunch of ad-sales people who’d come and gone, started and stopped, because selling ads is a really hard job. And besides, although I have a knack for recognizing top-notch editorial talent, I’m really lousy at choosing and retaining the ideal sales people. Every time I lost a sales person A News Cafe.com lost a little more credibility.

Fine, I said. I’ll sell ads, too. And that’s the way it’s been for a number of years now. It makes sense, because nobody knows this business like I do. And nobody is as passionate or literally invested in it as I am. The thing is, the more time I spend trying to sell ads, the less time I have for writing.

So here we are. Ten years old. Our team remains small, strong and flexible. Joe is our webmaster who does story formatting, deals with advertisers, ad placement and editorial scheduling.

Barbara Rice is our trusty admin assistant, who posts press releases and keeps a keen, watching eye on comments’ level of civility. Jim Gore is called in for troubleshooting and emergencies, such as recently when a plug-in we tried to install crashed the site. A News Cafe.com was down for 24 hours. It was painful, but it was good to hear from readers who missed the site, and wanted to know what had happened. I was glad to see that our absence made your hearts grow fonder.

I cannot stress enough the importance of our advertisers, who fund the site and keep it alive. We literally would not be here without them. Go ahead and click on this link and see who supports this site, so you can thank and support them. I’ll wait.

But other than the advertisers who signed on because they felt sorry for me (which is no longer the case), the reason all these advertisers are here is because they have websites that promote their businesses and they want to be where there are lots of eyeballs – readers – who can click on their ads and drive traffic to their websites. When I say lots of readers, I mean unique monthly visitors. Remember that early number when we first started, in the 2,700 unique visitors range?

Drum roll, please.

This summer A News Cafe.com had a record-breaking 94,000 unique monthly visitors. It blew our minds.

In addition to advertisers wanting to be where there’s a lot of traffic, they also appreciate that A News Cafe.com is locally owned, a respected site that has smart, informative, engaging and entertaining content.

It’s a chicken and egg thing, because without awesome content provided by talented people whose work attracts readers, there would be no advertisers, and without advertisers, the site couldn’t exist.

What I love about A News Cafe.com is there’s something for almost everyone. The contributors are a varied, lively, wonderfully talented group of journalists, community writers, photographers and cartoonists. Click here on this link and check them out so you can thank them, too.

Or here. I’ll post a photo of Matt Grigsby, who holds the record for the most posts, 684, primarily in Photo Cafe. You can click on Matt and see the list of A News Cafe.com talented contributors. Thank you, every one of you!

Matt Grigsby holds the record for the most posts.

As our team embarks on the beginning of its next decade, we’d like to step things up. We’d like to provide more local investigative pieces and even more fact-based journalism. We’d also like to pay our people more. We’d like more content, whether restaurant reviews or short videos.

In my dreams, one very generous benefactor would regularly throw large amounts of money at A News Cafe.com. But really, what would work even better – and be more along the lines of A News Cafe.com’s community-minded, interactive spirit — is if many of you contributed whatever you felt moved to donate each month. It would be a group effort.

If you like what you see on A News Cafe.com, and if you’d like us to go to the next level, you can help with a recurring donation of any amount that you can afford. Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled by every single donation, whether it’s $25 or $100, both of which were contributed by two women this month. (Thank you, Y.S. and M.S.) Or one very thoughtful reader who gives $250 each year. (Thank you, B.S.) We have one loyal reader who contributes $5 a month (thank you, K.B.), and another who just set up a $15 recurring monthly donation. (Thank you, D.G). You have no idea how grateful I am for these women.

It’s difficult for me to ask for help. I always hope you will see that little “donate” button and feel moved to make a donation after seeing something you especially enjoyed on A News Cafe.com. But so far, my hopes and realities remain far apart.

So here’s what I’ve come up with: As a token of our appreciation, all readers who sign up for a recurring payment of any amount will be invited to our year-end VIP birthday party. Plus, each month their names will be entered in a drawing for one of my famously delicious sour cream coffee cakes, as well as any event tickets that come our way. How does that sound? I’m open to ideas.

Those who sign up for a recurring monthly payment of $50 or more will get a coffee cake on the spot, either hand delivered by yours truly, or, if outside our area, I will mail it. (It ships well.)

Don’t think of it as bribery, but an expression of gratitude the way I know best: parties and baked goods.

Here’s the donate link that goes to our PayPal page, which includes that magic button that says, “Make this a monthly donation”.

I’ll give you a moment to look it over.

In the meantime, join me in wishing A News Cafe.com a very happy birthday. And join me in thanking every one of our precious, valuable advertisers, and every one of our talented, engaging contributors.

And most of all, I thank you for being here, for participating, for reading, for clicking on ads and being part of this “we” site.

Here’s to many more stories and photos and cartoons and many, many more birthdays.

P.S. We’ll do the drawing for the sour cream coffee cake on the first day of each month. Today’s Dec. 1, so we’ll do a random drawing today at 5 p.m. and will announce the winner this evening. Good luck to all the recurring contributors, and thank you! 

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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51 Responses

  1. conservative says:

    Are there blogs like Anewscafe in other metro areas? Seems to me others may want to copy the success of Anewscafe.

    Prescottenews and Carsonnow are digital news blogs, and I think that model is promising.

    • I don’t know of other sites like A News Cafe.com. We are unique in many ways: I already had a following of newspaper readers, so when I left the paper, I took them with me. And then I had a son who started the site, and some dear friends cheering me on, including friend who’s a genius programmer who helped us go from blog to news magazine website.

      And then, when the paper was discarding people, I welcomed them to A News Cafe.com.

      And then, my community connections helped with finding advertisers, writers and other contributors, as well as giving me the credibility to gain the community’s trust that this was a good place.

      Things like that.

      Ours would be a really hard model to replicate without those particular features, unless it was a site started by a wealthy publisher who threw money at the site and made it all happen.

      It’s a lot of hard work, but there’s no way I’d ever return to a newspaper. I love not having a corporation breathing down my neck, and I love my flexibility, even if it means that I pull some all-nighters because I’ve spent my day playing.

  2. conservative says:

    My favorite on Anewscafe is the series on remodeling the house. Anewscafe helped motivate me to move to northern Nevada where I bought a 1962 house and am fixing it up.

  3. AJ says:

    Don’t want to overstate things here, but anewscafe.com changed my life…..just sayin’……

    As I said before, thanks for hanging in with the vision that you didn’t even know you had !

    • Oh, AJ, I love that sentiment of hanging in with the vision I didn’t know I had. Life is funny that way. Sometimes some of our biggest successes happen when we start in the direction away from the place we need to leave, and just putting one foot in front of the other leads us to new paths and adventures. There have been so many missteps along the way, and obstacles, but it’s a matter of going around them or over them and recalculating.

      Thank you, dear AJ, for being here since nearly the start, and for your contributions: Just Sayin’ 😉

      • AJ says:

        If I ever get a computer back , so that I can type with my fingers instead of a stylus on my Kindle , I’ll be ready to contribute again . 10 years ago I never imagined that electronics would figure so large in my life .
        1 foot in front of the other is not a bad life motto. But sometimes we get so focused on looking at our feet we forget to look at where they are taking us . And sometimes , when we look up , it is a distinctly pleasant surprise……hmmmm… And sometimes not. Bottom line…enjoy the journey!!

  4. cheyenne says:

    I posted a link to the Rancho Tehama article on the Denver Post and received a few likes and thank you so I know some from Colorado viewed the article.

    • Thank you, always, Cheyenne, for sharing links.

      We have a wide reach, especially when you consider some of our contributors live far from our Redding headquarters, like Deb Segelitz in Scotland and Doug Cushman in France (I always look forward posting his holiday card on Christmas Eve), Debra Atlas in Texas, Don Williams in Montana, and closer still are Hal Silliman in Modoc County and Courtney Paige in Sonoma County. (Who did I forget?)

  5. Gary Solberg says:

    Doni – You are a good writer, a good journalist, a very good people person, and for sure a good business woman who proved she did not need a business man to guide her or chide her. Congratulations on the ten-year anniversary of A New Cafe! May it continue to thrive.

  6. Beverly Stafford says:

    I shouldn’t say, “Told ya so,” but I’m gonna. Viewers can’t expect A News Cafe to continue without support, and it’s high time you reached out with today’s suggestion. Actually, I’d like to see that’s it’s mandatory to be a donor for us to access the site. Dunno how Joe and Jim could accomplish that, but the local bird cage liner doesn’t allow viewing the full site without payment. I like the idea of a monthly, don’t-have-to-think-about-it contribution instead of my usual annual amount; so as soon as I finish this, I’ll hit that huge DONATE button and change my ways.

    • Beverly, if I were to give an award for the site’s most vocal supportive cheerleader, someone whose number of comments are only second to Steve Towers, the person most likely to first alert us to a glitch, or to smell a rat, that would be you. Thank you for your support – both in your generous contributions and your thoughtful comments.

      To your point about mandatory contributions to read the site, it’s something I’ve always resisted. I have spent a lot of time making fun of the paper’s paywall, and I believed that if readers found the site valuable, they’d contribute if they could.

      So I think of this donate button and its perks as a more gentle, voluntary giving model. Plus, those who contribute are rewarded by attending our year-end VIP birthday party, and being in the drawing for my coffee cake and any tickets and specials that come our way.

      I just saw the email with your name on it with a recurring, generous donation. Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear Beverly. I appreciate you so much. xod

  7. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    Doni, I was a fan of your writing in that other place, and I’m still a fan. Congratulations for herding anewscafe through a decade.

    • So nice of you to say, Hal. Let ME say that one of the best things about having you as a reader is that you, like a few other readers, turned into a contributor.

      The value you bring to A News Cafe.com with your painstaking list of live north state music is one of my favorite parts of the site. I know what a pain it is to make sure the list is accurate, with the right links and dates and times and venues. It’s tedious work, and I recognize it each time I read your post.

      Plus, you’re a fine writer, too. I still think of your Valentine’s Day piece with great fondness. (Even your phrase, “herding anewscafe through a decade” is so visual and funny and spot on.)
      Thank you!

  8. Eleanor says:

    Super idea, Doni! That great big button was just too alluring and drew me towards it like a magic spell! Seeing A News Cafe in my morning emails always makes me smile, and so did that button! Happy December, and happy Anniversary. Yay! A good start to a Friday!

    • Eleanor says:

      oops, I mean Friday….some days it’s hard to tell…..

    • Wow! I love that the donate button drew you in like a magic spell! And I just saw the email with your generous recurring donation. (I’m responding to comments here, first, and thank-you emails are next.)

      Thank you, dear Eleanor. You’ve been with us from the start, and the site is a better place with you in the family. I’m glad you’re here.

  9. Marilyn Traugott says:

    Happy birthday to A News Cafe and thank you, Doni, for the hard work, persistence, and talent you have for turning a blog into a first-rate online publication. Reading A News Cafe every day makes for a delightful connection to the North State, especially during those times when I’m on the other side of the planet.
    I can certainly relate to the feeling of not being able to have imagined ten years ago what life would be like now. What an interesting, amazing journey, my friend. I look forward to your continued inspiration.

    • (I’m slapping my forehead! Of course! Marilyn Traugott who writes a few times a year from Africa! I’ll add you to the list of far-away contributors.)

      I appreciate your words so much, and I appreciate YOU for your contribution to the site with your postcard column from Africa. You inspire so many of us. Thank you!

  10. P.S. We’ll do the drawing for the sour cream coffee cake on the first day of each month. Today’s Dec. 1, so we’ll do a random drawing at 5 p.m. today and will announce the winner this evening. 

  11. Richard Christoph says:

    Happy Birthday to anewscafe.com and congratulations to you, Doni, for your perseverance, talent, and creativity. It speaks to your qualities as a human being that you produced such a fine son and attracted loyal friends and supporters that lent a hand in your achievement. Best wishes for an even more successful and prosperous next 10 years.

  12. Chris Nagy says:

    Congratulations on this awesome milestone! I remember a quick lunch you and I had in Cottonwood when you were just getting started. You were worried and I kept telling you that “you can do this!” We both saw the handwriting on the wall for newspaper journalism, and the outcome has changed both of our lives. I think for the better in both cases, doing what we love. So, from Kansas… keep up the good work, here’s to the next 10!

    • I DO remember that lunch! Has it been 10 years! So much has happened both our lives since then. I’d say we are both in a better place. Thank you for your support and words of encouragement along the way. It helped a lot!

  13. Grammy says:

    “What simple things could Shasta County do to make it a better place to live?” would be a good column (or post). Like put more reflectors down on the streets to aid our driving during those down pours where you can’t see the lines. Trim the bushes so that we can see the “stop” signs. Have people come up with businesses that Redding really need, like a Whole Foods or Hobby Lobby or a major discount grocery store on the west side of town.
    As far as advertisers, I missed Grocery Outlet, where I could find a coupon or the weekly good deal here.

  14. Jon Lewis says:

    Congratulations on ten years of success and surviving the bumps and bruises along the way. I’m happy and proud to be part of the News Cafe team, and so is my mother, who, at 95, no doubt wins the award for being your most senior correspondent 😉 Here’s to another ten years!

    • Oh, Jon, you are a top-notch journalist who is a gifted reporter and talented writer. Your stories are among the best parts of A News Cafe.com.

      I appreciate you so much. And of course, I love your mother and her columns, too. You are correct that she is our most senior correspondent. We adore her!

      And yes, here’s to another 10 years. I look forward to working with you for another decade, Jon. xod

  15. Matt Grigsby says:

    Congratulations on your anniversary Doni! Participating on the site has truly been one of the joys of my life and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it. You’ve done something remarkable here, and in the middle of such huge changes in your life, and I can’t imagine anyone else pulling it off. Imagine what the next ten years will bring!

    P.S. Make that *685* posts. 😉

    • Matt, A News Cafe.com is so much better with you.
      I love your photography, but I also love your writing. (Your opossum story still makes me laugh to think of it.)
      I’m so happy you’re here.

  16. Deb says:

    Congratulations and happy ANC anniversary, Doni! I am grateful for *you*, and for so many readers who have embraced my wordy contributions from afar 🙂 Here’s to many more successful, well-funded years at A News Cafe.com!

  17. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Congratulations, Doni! Thanks for sharing your online platform with us—especially those of us who probably have a little too much to say.

  18. We have a winner. Contributor Mary Speigle will receive this month’s sour cream coffee cake. Thank you, Mary. We appreciate you so much.

    • Beverly Stafford says:

      If Mary has never had one of your sour cream coffee cakes, she’s in for a real treat. Phil Stone and I were comparing notes about Noni Doni’s treats, and he raves your carrot cake. If you’re a slave to a compliment, you may revise your thinking about not doing as much cooking as you did pre-remodel days. That new oven’s gonna get a workout.

  19. Ginny says:

    I always read your column in the local paper that I stopped taking years ago, after you left there. For you and aNewsCafe, there have been so many more free hats made for the local cancer patients, especially when you ran several columns on Chuck’s Hats for Chemo. (www.chuckshatsforchemo.com)

    So you and your own local “eNewsapaper” have contributed so much to the community to try to make it a better place to live.

    Hoping the Matt does make a “coffee table” book of his wonderful photos.

    Thank you, for all the you have lived through and survived showing others how to survive under “lousy” happenings in life.

    Always love and God’s Blessings………..

  20. Frank Treadway says:

    Happy 10 Years To You Doni ! Looking forward to your 2027 Anniversary; by then you can put it on automatic and lay back in the rocking chair. You are a Wonder Woman !

    • Thanks for the compliment, but no rocking chair for me in 10 years!

      But YOU – the guy who’s a champion for so many causes, and who’s been the force behind the salvation of precious heritage trees – you DO rock, Frank!

  21. Carrie Dokter says:

    Congratulations! So happy for you! I have been a number one fan since your beginning at the paper, following and enjoying all your writings, your wit.
    Many years ago, as a Mercy volunteer, when I’d asked you if you would please be a guest speaker at our Guild Luncheon, and you agreed, I was excited and overjoyed. You spoke on the importance of volunteering. You are a shining star in the community!

  22. conservative says:

    Newspapers’ trend continues downward. So few people subscribe to print papers that better ways to deliver coupons had to be found. Yesterday I saw a lady show her smartphone to a cashier. The cashier scanned the phone screen. There was no need to print out the coupon.

    More stores send coupons by email.

    The Gannett newspaper in Reno put the building up for sale and moved to smaller offices. Contracted out printing. Could the R-S be published like AnewsCafe from a kitchen counter with reporters working from home?

    • Beverly Stafford says:

      I should apologize for being so negative, but the R/S became such a poor excuse of a newspaper when the regime that fired Doni took over that I can say only, “Who cares if it could be published from a kitchen counter.” The only section I miss about the R/S is David Benda’s business column. If enough viewers donated to A News Cafe, Doni could hire a hard news reporter and a business columnist. Then the R/S could fold completely instead of slowly dying.

      • Beverly, you are correct that with enough money, A News Cafe.com could hire a full-time hard news reporter. (P.S. I’m a Dave Benda fan, too. We were former colleagues who sat within the same desk quad area. He’s a good guy and a fine journalist.)

    • K. Beck says:

      Time, Inc. (including the NYT) was just purchased by Meredith Corporation, which is owned by the Koch Bros. “The deal was made possible, in part, by an infusion of $650 million from the private equity arm of Charles G. and David H. Koch, the billionaire brothers known for using their wealth and political connections to advance conservative causes.”

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/business/dealbook/time-inc-meredith-corporation-koch-brothers.html

      “Charles Koch, the chief executive of Koch Industries, and David Koch have long sought to shape political discourse through their support of nonprofit organizations, universities and think tanks.” David Koch underwrites NOVA on PBS: http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/2013/05/david_koch_and_pbs_the_odd_couple.html

      Question everything you see and read!

      […and Doni, don’t get any wild eyed ideas! : )]

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