Ken Whyte, Conrad Black and a conflict of interest

Ken Whyte, Conrad Black and a conflict of interest

On a day when the Hollinger three filed joint papers with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in a final effort to delay their imprisonment, I am going to rewind the tape to reprise a peripheral issue in the trial of Conrad Black—one that may, in the long run, have even more profound consequences than the demise of the great man himself.

A senior editor at one of the world’s great publications took time out yesterday to reflect on the peculiar relationship between Maclean’s magazine, its editor-in-chief, Ken Whyte, and Conrad Black. In case you missed it, Whyte admitted in open court to taking a $100,000 bonus from Black long after leaving his employ. Several newspapers—including the New York Times—raised the issue of conflict of interest. But at the end of the day, Whyte remains in his job; Rogers, which owns Maclean’s, has never commented publicly on the matter, and the whole issue is treated rather like the emperor’s new clothes. I found the senior editor’s unsolicited comments on this matter as refreshing as those of the little boy in that fable:

“When I heard about this stuff I thought, God that’s weird. I mean, didn’t anybody at Rogers sit down and say to Ken, ‘You’re not supposed to take six-figure payments from a guy [whose trial you’re supposed to be covering]’? I don’t understand how he—or the magazine, even—could have anything to do with covering Conrad Black. If the mayor of Toronto gave $50,000 to [the editor of Toronto Life], wouldn’t people say, ‘You can’t cover [him] anymore’? You can’t make money on the side in this job…that’s not the business we’re in… If you’re going to cover the circus, don’t fuck the elephants.”

And with that, I promise never to raise this issue again, so long as we all understand that the course of these events is—or ought to be—a searing indictment of Canadian media and its ownership. And that to the rest of the world, in this instance at least, we look no better than the banana republics we condemn.

Conrad Black, Codefendants Seek Delay of March 3 Prison Date: Source [Bloomberg]