Posted 4/22/2013 12:00 am
For a man who had such a profound effect on Arkansas government and journalism, Robert S. “Bob” McCord was surprisingly self-effacing.
He was, indeed, a gentle man, kind, thoughtful and an encourager of others and their dreams. The CEO of Arkansas Business Publishing Group and its editors still cherish decade-old letters of praise from McCord, including one that begins “While I know that the opinion of an old retired newspaper editor is hardly important …” In this rare instance, he was wrong. McCord and his opinions always mattered to his fellow journalists.
And they mattered to Arkansas: Bob McCord, who died April 13 at 84, was also one of the best friends the citizens of this state have ever had or may ever have. During his tenure as owner and publisher of his hometown weekly newspaper, the North Little Rock Times, he helped draft the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, enacted in 1967.
As he wrote in an article on FOIArkansas.com:
“Perhaps the best illustration of the law’s influence is in the conduct of the legislators. The 1874 Arkansas Constitution, which, of course, has precedence over statutory law, says, ‘The sessions of each house and of committees of the whole shall be open unless when the business is such as ought to be kept secret.’
“The House and Senate used to take advantage of this provision and meet in secret. However, since the passage of the FOI Act, it has never happened.”
Think about that for a minute: your elected representatives secretly meeting to pass laws and spend your money. They don’t — at least, as far as we know — because of the efforts of McCord and other members of what’s now called the Society of Professional Journalists. We thank this gentle warrior, a gentleman.