Please click on image to ENLARGE photo of Marsha Melnichak (right) and friends visiting the Fayetteville Farmer's Market on October 25, 2008.
Melnichak remembered for fierce dedication to reporting
Northwest Arkansas Times
Posted on Saturday, November 22, 2008
Hardworking, diligent, accurate and fair are just a few words used by area residents to describe Northwest Arkansas Times’ reporter Marsha Melnichak.
Marsha, 57, died Friday morning at Washington Regional Medical Center after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer; she was diagnosed on Oct. 13.
In April 2005, Marsha moved to Fayetteville to become a city-government reporter for the Times. During her 3.5 years in Fayetteville, she earned the respect of those she covered.
“Marsha set a new standard for journalism in Fayetteville,” said Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody. “She was thorough, accurate and fair.”
Coody made his respect for Marsha’s work public with a proclamation he made before the Nov. 6 City Council meeting, declaring the day as “Marsha Melnichak Day.”
At that same meeting, the City Council passed a resolution honoring Marsha’s work.
“She worked long, long hours and made every effort to be fair. I have received calls from her to make sure she got it right,” Alderman Nancy Allen said. “It seems to me that ‘being fair’ is about the highest compliment you can give a reporter.”
Someone who had a lot of interaction with Marsha was local developer John Nock. “Marsha was ever diligent at her job as a reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Times and our great town was enriched by her having been here. When we lose a friend it gives us an opportunity to reflect on our own lives,” Nock said. “Perhaps Marsha’s passing can allow us all to be a little more diligent, a little more kind, a little more patient and never forget the wonderful lives we each enjoy.”
Marsha’s son, Michael Melnichak, described his mom as “uncorruptable.” He said she had a lot of respect for the position she held.
“It wasn’t just a job to her. She saw it as a responsibility, ” he said. “ She also knew the importance of being a good observer. ”
All these qualities helped her flourish.
“The Times was the pinnacle of her career,” said Marsha’s partner, Sue Morris. “She really thrived in Fayetteville.”
Morris said that even in Marsha’s last days at the hospital and as the medicine was getting to her, she was talking about having to get the election tally.
“She thought something was wrong with the ballots,” Morris said.
Marsha was dedicated in all her reporting, up to the end.
“I will remember Marsha for her strong work ethic, for her devotion to doing everything she could to deepen her understanding of what she was writing about and for her deeply held love for reporting, ” said Greg Harton, executive editor of the Times. “We’re proud of her work here, proud she was a part of our newsroom, and so sad to lose her as a friend and colleague.”
Fayetteville was just the last stop in Marsha’s 34-year journalism career.
Friend and colleague Joanne Fox went to high school with Marsha in Sioux City, Iowa, and they remained friends.
“It was Marsha who encouraged me to pursue journalism as a career, ” said Fox, now a reporter with the Sioux City Journal. “ When I had to declare a major in college, I decided to take her advice. It proved to be the most gratifying choice I could have made because it not only enhanced our friendship, it enabled us to share our professional lives.”
Marsha’s first job as a reporter was for the Atlantic (Iowa ) News Telegraph in 1974. She held that position until 1979, when she was named editor at the Belle Plaine (Iowa ) Union.
From 1986 to 1992 she took a break from the newspaper business and went to work for Teikyo-Westmar University in Le Mars, Iowa, as the director of communications.
In 1994, she once again became an editor, this time for the North Sioux City (S. D. ) Times. She held that position until 1996.
From 1999 to 2005, she worked at the Le Mars (Iowa ) Daily Sentinel in several capacities. She served as editor, news editor, reporter and photographer.
Tom Stangl, publisher at the Le Mars paper, said he remembers the day he hired Marsha.
"She came in and said, ‘Your headlines are wrong, your leads are bad, and your layout is terrible.’ I asked her if she could help us fix this and she said yes,” he said. “She was very passionate about her work, very idealistic.”
During her career, Marsha received several awards from the Iowa Newspaper Association. She was most proud of receiving the Skip Weber Investigative Reporting recognition in 2004 for her reporting on the Le Mars Community Betterment Program.
Other honors include Excellence in Editorial Writing, first place, 2004 and 2001; Best News Photo, first place, 2002; Best News Story, first place, 2000. She also received first place honors with the Frank Nye News Writing, Spot News and Editorial Content categories during her time at the Belle Plaine Union.
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