Crikey reporter Sophie Vorrath writes:

Despite charges against him of embezzlement, racketeering, obstruction of justice and the wire fraud, Conrad Black was one of the “true greats” of newspaper publishing according to this impassioned piece by Black’s one-time London Daily Telegraph editor Martin Newland. Writing today in The Independent, Newland – who worked for Hollinger group in various roles before Black was divested of control of his company – says:

I am writing this because I think it would be wrong to let a remarkable history of newspaper acquisitions, investment and transformation on three continents over many decades be reduced to nothing more than shallow guffaws about Conrad’s wife’s spending habits or the refurbishment of the company jet.

Having worked for Lord Black on two continents on two of his most adored national newspapers, I have to say that I found him to be well mannered, sympathetic, mischievous, and most definitely on my side. He gleefully joined us in the game of setting our editorial agendas and, in general, stood by us through the ensuing maelstrom. One knew where one stood with Conrad because his publications were locked in an ideological unity of purpose. He simply could not tolerate the notion of a newspaper that sits around reflecting on events. He expected his publications to change things – not by confirming prejudices, but by winning people to a fresh viewpoint.

And for those who remain cynical, Newland continues:

None of the above I am sure will do much to dissipate the fierce joy that Fleet Street reserves for the downfall of one of its own. But I hope it might prompt some to distinguish between “Conrad the newspaperman” and “Conrad the businessman”.

…I am aware and deeply concerned about the array of federal charges facing Lord Black in America, but I will wait for the evidence to play out before making a judgement, and even if everything against Conrad is proven, this would do nothing to reduce his standing for me as one of the greatest newspapermen of the past century.

Black is set to stand trial in March next year.