THE BLOG
01/06/2009 03:25 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Newspaper Swindlers Black and Radler Look Quaint by Today's Standards

A question for Conrad Black and David Radler: How can we miss you when you won't go away?

Black is serving six years plus in federal prison for looting millions from Hollinger International, the Canadian-based media empire he founded and built with sidekick Radler back in the 1980s and 1990s. Black was convicted on charges of mail and wire fraud, and obstruction of justice. Radler pled guilty to mail and wire fraud charges and served a lighter sentence after agreeing to testify against Black. He's out of jail now on parole and living in Canada. I saw Black and Radler in action back in the mid-1990s, when they took over the Chicago Sun-Times (see full disclosure, below).

By today's standards, their crimes against Hollinger shareholders seem downright quaint. (See: subprime mortgage crisis/Wall Street complicity and Bernard Madoff.) But that's really no excuse for letting these two continue to draw attention to themselves.

Chicago Tribune media columnist Phil Rosenthal reports that Radler wants to write a "business primer" about "how he and former partner and mentor Conrad Black built their global media empire together."

Meanwhile, Black bloviates from his jail cell at Tina Brown's The Daily Beast, where he brings his pompous, over-wrought writing style to subjects ranging from Michael Wolff's recent book on Rupert Murdoch to Barack Obama and even Ed Genson, the attorney who defended Black and now represents Rod Blagojevich. It seems Blagojevich's troubles with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald have stirred up bad memories for poor old Conrad:

Rod Blagojevich has instantly become the anti-heroic poster boy of this American recession Christmas. He incites, as Peggy Noonan writes, "Rectitude Chic." Blago is a providential wrongdoer to maintain the Orwellian hate. Even if he is guilty of something other than imprudent and vulgar bravura, he didn't actually take a bribe. But he has allowed his enemies to represent him as a figure of immense gaucherie, cynicism, and stupidity. And in his hour of extremis, the Illinois Governor has engaged the colorful Eddie Genson, who was one of my counsel when the tyranny of Patrick Fitzgerald assaulted me two years ago.

Memo to Tina Brown: in 2009, there is nothing cute, appealing or sexy about celebrity criminals. And, really -- can't you edit this guy just a bit?

Now, for the disclosure: I'm one of the hundreds of American journalists who have particular distaste for Conrad Black and David Radler because we worked for them. I was employed as an editor and columnist at the Sun-Times back in the mid-1990s when Hollinger took over the paper, and was an early casualty when they started hacking away at the staff. Fast-forward to the present, and you find that the damage inflicted by Hollinger on the Sun-Times has left the paper on life support.

Maybe Radler can include a chapter on how to bring down a newspaper with a proud tradition of great big city journalism in that book he plans to write.