Shaena Stabler Keeps Us Informed
Shaena Stabler is a staple in Laguna Beach, running the local Laguna news beat, Stu News Laguna. Both her and the publication have become integral parts of the community, on a mission to keep Laguna up-to-date on all of the latest happenings in our tiny but mighty town.
“I think of Stu News as a community project that has turned into a business meant to bring people together,” Stabler shares with a smile.
Almost 8½ years ago, Stabler joined forces with Stu Saffer, original founder of the online publication. With Stabler’s background in marketing and advertising and Saffer’s experience in writing and publishing, they covered all aspects of life in Laguna Beach — all of the time.
When Saffer passed away two years ago, Stabler was devastated, losing her mentor and best friend. “I grew up in every sense through the business, and personally with Stu. I miss him every day, but am so grateful I get to honor him with each day,” she reflects.
Originally from Warrenton, a small town in Oregon, Stabler sought to explore new options on the east coast as a production assistant at ESPN. This was followed by a stint in NY as a paralegal and then back across the country where she finally settled in Laguna.
It was here where she discovered her passion for music while performing solo karaoke. During one of her performances at Woody’s Wharf, the owner asked if he could hire her regularly, and thus began her music career, performing at local restaurants like Hush and the Royal Hawaiian.
Making a name for herself in town, she became active in the community and reached out to Stu News for help in publicizing a charity event she was putting on to raise funds for Haiti victims after the 2010 earthquake. She was delighted when Saffer happily lent his support, giving her front billing, promotion, and totally packing the place.
A short time later when the two met to discuss a business partnership, Saffer basically offered Stabler half his business. Now, with roughly 33,000 monthly readers, Stu News Laguna has grown in leaps and bounds over the years. Stabler, like Saffer, has a deep sense of caring about the people that live here. This isn’t just the news to her now, it’s her life and community, as she has started her own family here.
“Laguna has that inclusivity that I felt from day one,” shares Stabler. “The fact that you can go to a meeting at Zinc Cafe in flip flops and drive a Toyota and be whoever you want to be -- all the while knowing that people will accept you.”
These days Stabler finds herself ultra busy running the editorial and advertising side of the business and working roughly 80+ hours a week. Still, she manages to be on the board of directors for the Friendship Shelter and makes time to cheer on friends at Little League baseball games at Riddle Field (one of her and Stu’s most special spots in town).
“I have an amazing team. It’s not just me, it’s 20 people contributing to Stu News,” shares Stabler. “The community contributes as a whole — I’m just reporting and reflecting as a mirror.”
The spirit of Stu is very much kept alive with Stu News and Stabler is dedicated to expanding the publication to cities all over. Stu News Newport is her latest venture, published twice weekly and unique to the Newport Beach community.
"I want to do Stu News everywhere,” she laughs. “I joke that one day Stu’s face is going to end up on barbecue sauce bottles because Stu means community and every community needs a vessel. Stu News as a publication is meant to embody that.”
Stabler says that moving to Laguna Beach was one of the best decisions of her life… and we have to agree. Without her, the town just wouldn’t be as bright and the news wouldn’t travel as fast.
“I’m a small town girl destined for another small town,” Stabler says with a wink. "I got lucky when I found Laguna.”
Mari Verdugo is a fourth generation Laguna Beach native, photographer, writer, and avid reader of Stu News Laguna’s police blotter section. Find Mari at @marielenaphoto or on her website.
Photos by: Grant Puckett.