Pine Bluff Commercial Editor Resigns Over Editorial Endorsement

Pine Bluff Commercial Editor Tom McDonald recently resigned over an editorial endorsement.

"I decided not to participate," McDonald said and declined to comment further on the incident. He said he would release more details once he's gone from the paper, which should be next week.

Sources close to the paper who asked not to be named said the Stephens Media Group of Little Rock, which owns the Commercial and 20 other newspapers in eight states, wanted the Commercial to endorse Republican Jay Dickey for the U.S. House of Representative seat against the Democratic incumbent Mike Ross.

"Tom's leaving does stem from a disagreement over endorsements," said Sherman R. Frederick, president and chief executive officer of the Stephens Media Group. "Sometimes two people who care about the community equally as much have disagreements.

"I just hate to lose the association of a good editor over a political race," he said. "But we haven't made any endorsement at this point."

McDonald has been editor at the 20,000-circulation paper since February 2000.

Stephens Group Inc., the parent company of the Stephens Media Group, referred questions to Commercial Publisher Charles Berry.

"It is a disagreement over editorial policy," Berry said. "We have not yet announced our endorsement in the Ross-Dickey race."

He wouldn't say if the paper was leaning toward endorsing Dickey.

"We hate to see Tom leave, because as you know good journalists are hard to find," he said.

The Stephenses have been a longtime supporter of Dickey.

In Dickey's 1996 race, Stephens Inc. donated $9,250, which was the second-highest amount during that election cycle. In 1998, the company donated $7,500, which tied for the highest amount given to Dickey. And in Dickey's unsuccessful 2000 race, Stephens gave $17,000 and was the top contribution that year.

Jack, Warren and Witt Stephens, owners of the Stephens Media Group, also gave a total of $5,000 to Dickey during the 2000 election.

Kersh E. Hall, the paper's regional editor, will be interim editor.