It is, perhaps, the worst of ironies that this — a holiday week in which we traditionally combine our three newspapers into a single joint issue — will be the last for retiring Peabody editor Susan Marshall.
Joining us 15 years ago for what was going to be only a few months — just until we could get a “real” journalist to take over —Susan has been the heart and soul of both the Peabody Gazette-Bulletin and, in many regards, the entire Peabody community.
Despite her protestations, she also has established herself a very “real” journalist of the first order.
Those who regularly read only the Marion County Record or the Hillsboro Star-Journal may not have seen enough of her work to notice. But ask any of the many people who have edited her copy over the years and they will unanimously tell you: Susan is one of the best writers, if not the best writer, on our staff.
If you need proof, check the list of 2016’s most-read stories elsewhere in this issue. For someone who worked only part-time, she was the storyteller for far more than her fair share of those pieces.
Someone like Susan cannot be replaced. In anticipation of her delayed retirement, we months ago expanded our staff to be able to pick up her workload. We’ll continue to emphasize unique Peabody coverage you can’t get anywhere else. But we cannot replace her passion for her community.
Routinely publishing three local newspapers instead of one bigger one (small holiday weeks like this notwithstanding) has never been in our financial interests.
We could be much more profitable following industry trends that have seen larger communities such as El Dorado and Augusta — or Winfield and Ark City — lose their separate papers.
Self-styled big-time publishers with interests spanning multiple areas never seem to hesitate to abandon their roots and seek bigger profits with less news and more ads sold to big-city competitors of local businesses.
Part of why Susan’s brief stint with us stretched into a decade and a half is that she believed, as we do, that communities deserve their own papers wherever possible.
We always are on the lookout for someone as passionate as Susan is about her hometown to join our staff — either in Peabody or anywhere else in the county. If that could be you, let us know.
But we won’t abandon you unless you abandon us. Keep sending us your story ideas. Keep encouraging your friends and neighbors to subscribe. Keep pressing your local merchants to do what they want their own customers to do — shop at home — by advertising in our local papers instead of with media that care only about their own bottom line.
Susan has carried the torch for Peabody for a decade and a half. No one individual has to replace her, but everyone must do their part. And that includes thanking her most sincerely for years of selfless service to her community.
— ERIC MEYER