Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

A couple more thoughts on the weekend’s coverage before I turn my attention to today and the run-up to the bail hearing on Thursday. Richard Siklos’ sensitive and intelligent backgrounder backing up his front-page report in The New York Times contained a quote that as much as any I’ve read captures the strange contrary fascination that Black holds for the press and the public:

“Another striking aspect of Mr. Black’s downfall is the degree to which his own bullheadedness has worked against him. Mr. Black, a military history buff who would compare his business strategies to great battles, made several aggressive moves after being removed from his company that resulted in more lawsuits and investigations into his affairs.Perhaps he was taking a page from ‘Citizen Hearst,’ a book about William Randolph Hearst that he read around the time of his expulsion from private school and piqued his interest in newspapers. In it, the book’s author, W.A. Swanberg, wrote, ‘No one could dispute his title as the champion loser of his time. The inspiring thing about him was his ability to see himself trounced in one fight and to come back swinging in the next.’”

If there’s a more concise description of Black’s catastrophic hubris, I can’t think of it. In a follow-up piece this morning, Siklos wrote about Barbara Amiel’s role in the debacle, under the ominous headline “Black’s Wife, an Image of Loyalty and Maybe Liability.”

Siklos speculates that, among other things, Amiel’s $2.6-million ring could be a target in the government’s effort to seize Black’s assets for the sake of restitution. This reminded me of a conversation Siklos and I had at the courthouse during a break in the proceedings. We were chewing over Rupert Murdoch’s role in undermining Black’s competitive position during the London newspaper wars. I floated the theory that Murdoch perceived Black’s weakness for overestimating his own net worth, to which Siklos replied, “I think it’s even darker than that. Rupert intuited Black’s weakness as the person standing right behind you.” I spun on my heel and there stood Lady Black.

As to this morning’s coverage, the Globe appears to be playing catch-up with its cover story reprising a bunch of e-mails sent from Black to reporter Paul Waldie. (“If you ran in this weather, I will put you in for an [Order of Canada] medal; Companion if you had your rucksack on your back.”) It all smacks of me-too journalism, meant to indicate that the Post isn’t the only paper with an inside track on his Lordship’s inner thoughts. The Star’s Rick Westhead, who seems to always have his ear at the prosecution’s door, has an excellent piece describing how the government, in the face of Black’s continuing bluster, intends to ask for a much harsher sentence than has been suggested so far (30 versus 15 to 20). The Wall Street Journal weighed in with an opinion piece suggesting that while they don’t approve of his behaviour, Black’s conviction proves the system works. This strikes me as being rather like ESPN reporting that while they don’t approve of Barry Bonds’ steroid use, they still approve of how far he hits his home runs.

Black’s Wife, an Image of Loyalty and Maybe Liability [New York Times]Conrad Black’s Downfall Shaped by Many Battles [New York Times]Black and Blue [Wall Street Journal]‘Gloves are off’ for Black [The Star]Black’s defiance could add to his sentence [Times]Defiant Black vows to fight on [ROB]


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