Black Watch: The Weekend’s Top Stories

Black Watch: The Weekend’s Top Stories

The barrage of Conrad Black stories over the weekend makes the ink spilled on VE Day look like coverage of the 48th Highlander Tattoo. And by this I mean nearly 10 pages in the weekend Globe, 12 and a half in the Post and seven in the Star for both Saturday and Sunday. (I threw in the towel before I could get to the Sun.)

The collective brain trust at The Globe and Mail managed to include not one word describing Friday’s dramatic scenes. Instead, we got either earnest rehashes of the non-competes (which led the Globe to stop paying attention in the first place) or tedious pedantry from Margaret Wente, Jeffrey Simpson and Judith Timson, who reminds us that while Babs may be a hag, she’s our hag, and a responsible Canadian attitude requires us to tug our forelocks accordingly.

The Post in turn gave it the old college try. While allowing Black an audience for his increasingly unstable and self-destructive maunderings, and providing Andrew Coyne yet another opportunity to say that we’re all better for his doings, blah, blah, blah, at least they tried to describe what actually, you know, happened.

The Star did best of all by sticking to a simple formula: report what’s of interest cleanly and crisply, and do it in half the inches. Still, editorializing in moments like this is inevitable and probably necessary. The Brits are best at it, avoiding saccharine bromides to point out the obvious implications. Take this from the Financial Times:

“Lord Black was the most baroque and flamboyant figure of all, openly defying his own shareholders and even, towards the end, the directors of Hollinger International. He diverted money from his shareholders into his own bank account in order to support a lifestyle befitting a billionaire. In his efforts to keep up with New York’s wealthiest socialites, he lost touch with basic principles of honesty.Lord Black and his wife often characterised their critics as little people who were jealous of their success. But the jury did not behave in that way. It dismissed the most lurid charges, including an accusation that he used a company jet improperly to go on holiday to Bora Bora and wrongly charged the $40,000 bill for Barbara Amiel’s 60th birthday party to Hollinger.Instead, the jury handed down a low-key and precise verdict that Lord Black obstructed justice and took fraudulent non-compete fees when Hollinger sold some of its newspapers. It did not exact revenge; it brought an end to his crimes responsibly and correctly.”

Then there were the British papers, which, with the odd contrarian exception, clubbed the crap out of Conrad like a baby seal trapped on a Labrador ice floe. Black’s arch-nemesis and biographer Tom Bower, whose company I quite enjoyed during our 12th floor days, gave an interview in the Times to James Bone in which he promised to bury the hatchet (Bower’s book Conrad and Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge was the object of a £5 million libel suit):

“I am not surprised by the verdict but I intend to write to the judge urging leniency because I feel he is a bad man but not an evil man, and at the age of 62 there should be a limit to the number of years he should serve.”

Knowing these two as I do, I suspect an arch motivation with more than a splash of cruelty. (Bower then wrote a feature in The Sunday Times whose ferocity put paid to any residual sympathy he may have been feeling.) Still, compared to the broadsheet Sominex put out by the Globe, Bone comes off as Chekhov.

Over and out.