Monday, July 16, 2007
Within an hour or so after the Conrad Black verdict came down Friday, the Los Angeles Times played the news high up on its Web site -- right below a Paris Hilton story. On the Washington Post's site, the Black decision didn't even rate an easy-to-find headline.
Meanwhile, Canada's leading media sites were brimming with Black. Maclean's, the nation's leading news magazine, sported a big "GUILTY" headline next to a dour photo of Black and offered a smorgasbord of content, including feeds from two bloggers live at the courthouse in Chicago.
Outside of Chicago, where Black is big local story, and perhaps New York, this country's media center, the Black verdict is just another headline, a story destined for the business section. But in Canada and the United Kingdom -- particularly the former -- the Black verdict is boffo, stop-the-presses stuff.
In Canada, Black built what would become the world's third-largest English-language newspaper empire, as well as a reputation for both erudition and bombast. When the Canadian government refused to let him accept a British lordship, he renounced his citizenship, a stinging rebuke to some of his countrymen.
Whether he's liked or loathed, "Black has been a larger-than-life personality in Canada for quite a while," said Christopher Waddell, a journalism professor at Carleton University in Ottawa.
It's been the same in the United Kingdom, where Black once owned the Daily Telegraph, one of the country's larger newspapers.
Black, a.k.a. Lord Black of Crossharbour, and his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, are members of the celebrity A-list in Britain, along with Becks and Posh, the royal family and the ghost of Princess Diana. Black's downfall, a tale of power, greed and private jets to Bora Bora, is what London's tabloids live for.
In this country, Black has been for the most part another foreign businessman.
And it was his business's ownership of the Sun-Times that helped ultimately lead to his trial here on fraud and racketeering charges. It's been a media circus since it started in March, but the bulk of the 300-plus journalists covering it are from outside this country.
Indeed in Canada, it's been dubbed "the trial of the century."