Ego and Ink: The Inside Story of Canada's National Newspaper War


350 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 0-7710-2173-9
DDC 338.4'707113541





Reviewed by Jay Newman

Jay Newman is a professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph. His
books include Inauthentic Culture and Its Philosophical Critics and
Biblical Religion and Family Values.


An established journalist who has written for The National Post among
other publications, Chris Cobb offers here an account of the “national
newspaper war” that followed Conrad Black’s decision to offer the
Post as vigorous competition to the other Toronto dailies. Although
Black eventually sold the Post to the Aspers, the war continues, and
readers are still regularly confronted in the dailies with plenty of
vituperation, self-promotion, and general silliness. Cobb’s narrative
is that of the journalist rather than the historian, and his objectives
are not precisely the revelation of truth for truth’s sake, the reform
of the media, or the exploration of character types in media industries.
Cobb plainly had lots of contacts who were happy to pass on to him
anecdotes and opinions, and some heavyweights in the Canadian media were
apparently quite willing to share their recollections and insights with
him. The central figure in the narrative is Lord Black, but many
prominent media-industry figures appear along the way, including such
big operators as Richard Addis, Phillip Crawley, Martin Newland, and
Kenneth Whyte, as well as many familiar Canadian columnists.

Much that Cobb describes has been discussed elsewhere at great length,
though there is plenty of gossip and innuendo for readers who like that
sort of thing. Cobb is a good writer but not a very good one, so that
readers may occasionally reflect on how the narrative would have come
out had it been written by a journalist with a distinctive stylistic
edge. Cobb does not seem to be a mean-spirited personality who derives
satisfaction from exposing the folly and childishness of powerful people
in his profession. There are indeed passages suggesting that he feels
obliged to remind readers that as important as media culture is in a
democratic polity, it depends as much on the whims and foibles of
well-placed individuals—and on the demands of business, politics, and
publicity—as on the estimable aspirations and talents of professional
writers who on some level of awareness earnestly seek to serve others by
bringing them the “news.”


Cobb, Chris., “Ego and Ink: The Inside Story of Canada's National Newspaper War,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,