Conrad Black is going to jail, but his influence still shapes Canadian media

I like to think of them as Conrad's brethren: Maclean's editor Ken Whyte, Ottawa Citizen  columnist John Robson, Vancouver Sun editorial-page editor Fazil Mihlar, Financial Post editor Terence Corcoran, and hordes of other right-wing voices in the Canadian media whose  journalism careers took off thanks in part to the disgraced media baron.

Robson and Mihlar used to crank out reports for the Fraser Institute, a right-wing Vancouver think tank lavishly funded by Hollinger Inc. and which featured Conrad Black's photo prominently in the lobby for many years.

Had it not been for the generous support of Black and his former sidekick David Radler, it's debatable whether or not Mihlar would still be doing public-affairs work for a major chartered bank.

Today, Black is scheduled to enter a U.S. penitentiary at 11 a.m. Vancouver time to serve a six-and-a-half year term for obstruction of justice and defrauding shareholders of Hollinger International. But his beloved National Post carries on, featuring a front-page eulogy to William F. Buckley, written by Black himself last week.

The editors felt that was a better use of the front page than focusing on bribery allegations involving Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

Black's influence can be seen every time you watch the CBC's At Issue panel hosted by Peter Mansbridge, and which rarely features a commentator to the left of Ken Dryden. Heaven forbid that the Toronto Star's Thomas Walkom or Linda McQuaig ever get airtime on one of these panels to discuss the war in Afghanistan.

You can also see Black's influence in the rightward tilt of the Globe and Mail in its efforts not to be outflanked by the National Post. Columns by Rex Murphy, Margaret Wente, and Norman Spector can compete with the most extreme right-wing offerings of Black's brethren over at the Post.

Black may be gone for a few years, but he continues to shape the media landscape in Canada. And that's one reason why you rarely hear about child poverty or daycare in the national news even though these issues affect millions of people across the country.