Magazine article The Spectator

Seth and Sun

Magazine article The Spectator

Seth and Sun

Article excerpt

New York

'Why are the phrases "honest journalist" and "free press" so often greeted with a snicker?' asks Tom Fleming in Chronicles magazine. Well, most of us exempt ourselves from this general condemnation - if we are journalists, that is - just as we exempt our favourite politician from the general loathing we feel for those we pay to represent us in parliament. I've been laid low with Montezuma's revenge since I returned from south of the border - my God, what a price to pay for a snort or two; it was the ice cubes, apparently - and then Bill Buckley rang. Bill's voice is unmistakable. It's a cross between Gary Grant's and Franklin Delano Roosevelt's, but friendlier. 'Are you free for dinner?' 'Well, no, I'm actually dying . . . ' but then Bill does live across the street, and the dinner was for Conrad Black, and as it turned out it was the most enjoyable evening I've had since the fall of Tobruk to Rommel.

There was the great Tom Wolfe, looking not a day over 28, all dressed in his traditional white suit and black-and-white corespondents' shoes; Richard Lowry, a man too young to vote but the successful editor-in-chief of National Review; Jeffrey Hart, a long-time editor of NR and professor at Dartmouth University; a couple of other contributors; my hostess Patricia Buckley; and Seth Lipsky. Lipsky is the mother of all editors, to use an overused metaphor, the secret weapon that Lord Black came up with two years ago when he and a couple of 'my secret Jewish billionaires' - Seth's words - decided to take on the formidable Noo Yawk Times. Mind you, it was laughable at the time. One cannot repeat verbatim a dinner conversation, but Bill asked Seth to fill us in about the Sun, the broadsheet daily that in my opinion makes reading the Times redundant.

What a story. When the paper began to form in Seth's mind, he calculated a daily circulation of 7,000 copies. In stepped Conrad, thinking big. 'Don't even think about it, go for it. . .' The results are amazing. The Sun is selling more than 50,000 copies daily, is beating the Times in local news, and covers sport and culture like no other paper at one tenth of the cost. Eight metropolitan reporters are wiping the floor with the 100 the Times employs, and the Sun's columnists make those of the Times seem not only predictable, but exhausted and repetitive. …

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