Slow News Day

Court having been adjourned until Monday, this seems as good a time as any to assess the press. Observing the varying degrees and species of interest pervading Black’s former press haunts is both confusing and compelling. London is intensely interested in exploring the full spectrum of schadenfreude. Even Black’s apologists can’t bring themselves to offer a full-throated defence. The parvenu peer brought low—for good or for ill—is the reigning narrative in that dowager town. New York’s attitude, as with most things that happen beyond its bridges and tunnels, oscillates between a hip and pugnacious indifference. Black biographer Richard Siklos raised the game at The New York Times, but he’s only reported twice from the trial. Chicago, where some have suggested that Black and Radler ruined a perfectly good newspaper, is curious, but apart from the white-collar-crime-in-a-blue-collar-town angle, reporting gets a little thin on the ground (with one notable exception: the Chicago Reader’s Mike Miner, whose analysis of Canadian press coverage is the best of the lot—he has a sister in Vancouver who passes him Canadian clips).

And then there’s us. Here it’s the White Collar Trial of the Century! Every journo and his dog has made the pilgrimage to Chicago, sniffing out the case and the competition. There were the éminences grises Fotheringham, Worthington and Newman (who took turns ratting each other out for falling asleep in court, or taking a fit of pique). There were the colour commentators Blatchford and Brown. There’s Steyn, who spares no sacred cows. DiManno weighing in on Amiel, and the next day Amiel going bonkers and making DiManno seem a swami. There’s a daily TV show (The Verdict), blogs like this one, CBC radio’s coolly erudite Mike Hornbrook and CTV’s heavily made-up correspondent Lisa LaFlamme, and more and more and more. And still, for all of that, it doesn’t seem to have quite the right air of Canadian self-loathing—until the Globe assigns its man in London, Doug Saunders, to regurgitate the comments of British scribes looking down their noses at a Canadian who flew too close to the sun. The distortions, magnifications and diminutions are endless. The Canadian press coverage is a funhouse of mirrors that renders every predisposition and predigested opinion viable because so many of us want to know. Well, perhaps not “know” so much as be reconfirmed each in our own prejudice. And speaking of prejudice, Steyn—possibly Black’s biggest fan—continues to “report,” blogging ardently from Chicago this very day:

“The Bora Bora trip: This is a puzzler. The prosecution attaches a figure of $500–$600,000 to the trip. How does anyone get to that number? To keep a Gulfstream in the air costs two-to-three grand per hour, and you can lease one for five or so. How do 30 hours of flying time plus a few extras add up to 600,000 bucks? I ask this out of genuine curiosity.”

Those last two words—genuine modifying curiosity—are truly Orwellian. But that’s where we’re at, and whinging about it is like complaining about gravity.


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