A former ally and one-time crusader for the plight of poor blacks in Mississippi, The Delta Democrat Times newspaper concluded in an April 2 editorial that it would not be much of a loss if the town of Mound Bayou went bankrupt.

That would have been heresy under former editor Hodding Carter, President Carter's State Department spokesman-turned TV commentator, whose father founded the daily that trumpeted the cause of downtrodden blacks in the face of local white outrage.

But Hodding Carter's family sold the newspaper two years ago to Freedom Newspapers Inc., a right-wing chain based in Santa Ana, Calif., which offered $18 million for the daily. Locals hardly recognize the newspaper any more. It's turned so conservative that it now opposes government involvement in everything from civil rights to community bond issues.

"Mound Bayou city government is in deep trouble," it wrote. "It seems that now would be a good time for residents to ask themselves if they really need a city. If the past few months of disrupted services, late payments to creditors and the seemingly endless stream of charges leveled at city officials indicates anything, it is that the only thing the town's citizens have to lose by city dissolution are the problems the city itself is causing. That's not much of a loss."

In a letter to the editor, Mayor Earl Lucas accused the newspaper of "insensitivity to the black community it serves," something he never had to do under the Carters.