Mark Steyn vs. the Sun-Times (reprise)
One of the more entertaining sideshows earlier in The Trial of the 10th of This Century So Far™ was the Mark Steyn vs. the Chicago Sun-Times showdown–soap opera, wherein Steyn quit as a columnist at that paper when then-publisher John Cruikshank spiked his column in defence of Black. I sniffed around the edges of this contretemps on into the fall, trying to sort out who did what to whom, when. At one stage I received the following missive from current Sun-Times editor Michael Cooke, whose authority was usurped by his then-publisher:
“It didn’t matter whether I agreed with Cruickshank or not, that was the decision that was made in consultation…and by the way, it was a while ago and we’ve all moved on, including Mark, I expect.”
As it turns out, not so much. This week’s Maclean’s includes the following broadside from Steyn, aimed directly at Cooke. Steyn’s specific beef is with an editorial that appeared in the Sun-Times the day after sentencing.
“…the Chicago Sun-Times took time off from its latest $40 million of budget-slashing to gloat over its chairman’s downfall. ‘We don’t make a habit of kicking people when they are down,’ declared its editorial before attempting to do just that. Their failure to pull it off derived less from the club-footed prose and naked appeal to class envy (‘we would have been happier had St. Eve not allowed Black to keep his Florida Mansion’) than in the fact that it’s very difficult to kick a chap when he’s down if you yourself happen to be prone. Michael Cooke, the Sun-Times’ editor, visited the courtroom from time to time, and early in the trial I reintroduced him to his old boss. ‘Hullo, guv’nor,’ he greeted Black. I suggested to him that he have dinner with Conrad one night and he said he’d have loved to, but the new management had expressly forbidden any contact. I rolled my eyes. Still, one’s sympathies only go so far. Any editor-in-chief worth his title, if unable to prevent the board’s imposition of such an editorial, would have at least demanded that it be less crappy and graceless. No doubt when the share price has fallen from a buck-twenty to 50 cents, they’ll still be blaming Conrad. (Full disclosure: I parted company with the Sun-Times when the publisher, who’s since decamped to the CBC, spiked my column on the trial).”
On this one I find myself siding with Steyn. I wrote at the time that the Sun-Times editorial was toxic drivel, and as much as I like Cooke, he comes out of this needing a shower and delousing. Black didn’t do the Sun-Times any favours (he got Radler to do his dirty work for him), but he’s not the source of all human misery—a lot if it, sure, but not all.
With that I wish one and all a happy whatever whatever and in the spirit of that season further wish Godspeed to my boss, John Macfarlane, who leaves Toronto Life today seeking further shores. He’s the sort that makes journalism a cheery adventure, and in that way I shall miss him. Blogging will continue intermittently over the holidays and will resume full throttle in the New Year.