Shelly Arth, publisher of The Marshall Democrat-News, the Saline County Citizen, the Marshall Messenger and The Concordian, informed the staffs of all four organizations this week that she plans to step down soon after the first of the year.
Arth has been on the MDN staff for more than 35 years. She told the staff Tuesday, Dec. 18, that her decision had been a difficult one.
"We are family," she said. "It's heartbreaking."
Another recent heartbreaking event led to her decision, she said. Her brother-in-law, Don Arth, died suddenly Dec. 8. He and Shelly's husband, Mike, had farmed together for many years.
She plans to step in and help with farm operations, especially "the business side of things," which her newspaper management experience prepared her for.
"The farm has been in the Arth family since 1959," she said. "We need to keep the farm going."
She said she expects to find herself involved in other aspects of farming, too.
"I'm going to drive a tractor and do that farm thing. You talk about a job change ..." she said. During a meeting Tuesday, she joked with staff that she would "be a Marcia -- without the writing," referring to MDN ag reporter Marcia Gorrell, whose weekly columns chronicle life on a Saline County farm.
Arth's first job with the MDN was selling classified ads. She worked her way from there to ad saleswoman, advertising manager and finally publisher. In the process, she has become a passionate advocate for community newspapers.
"There can be no doubt how strongly I believe in the newspaper and what we do," she said, noting how proud she is of the progress made in recent years to develop online products to match the established print products.
And she noted that, in a way, she will still be keeping her hand in the business.
"I'll still be in the newspaper business," Arth said, "only my capacity will be in raising soybeans for ink."
Arth said although she had planned to leave Dec. 31, she told officials at parent company Rust Communications that she would stay on for a few weeks into the new year to help with the transition to new leadership.