Sir Harold Evans
Evans in New York City, November 2009
Harold Matthew Evans
28 June 1928
|Nationality||British and American|
|Alma mater||Durham University|
|Occupation||Journalist, editor in chief|
|The Sunday Times|
The Week Magazine
BBC Radio 4
Sir Harold Matthew Evans (born 28 June 1928) is a British-American journalist and writer who was editor of The Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981.
In 1984 he moved to the United States, where he had leading positions in journalism with U.S. News & World Report, The Atlantic Monthly, and the New York Daily News. In 1986 he founded Condé Nast Traveler. He has written various books on history and journalism, with his The American Century (1998) receiving particular acclaim. In 2000, he retired from leadership positions in journalism to spend more time on his writing. Since 2001, Evans has served as editor-at-large of The Week magazine and, since 2005, he has been a contributor to The Guardian and BBC Radio 4. Evans was invested as a Knight Bachelor in 2004, for services to journalism. On 13 June 2011, Evans was appointed editor-at-large of the Reuters news agency.
Evans was born at 39 Renshaw Street, Patricroft, Eccles, to Welsh parents, whom he described in his 2009 memoir as "the self-consciously respectable working class".
Evans began his career as a reporter for a weekly newspaper in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, at 16 years old. After completing his national service in the Royal Air Force, he entered Durham University, after contacting every one of the fourteen universities in Great Britain at the time. There, he edited the university newspaper, Palatinate. He became an assistant editor of the Manchester Evening News and won a Harkness Fellowship in 1956-57 for travel and study in the United States. Nicholas Lemann noted that he "joined a long line of British journalists" who did similar studies, from Alistair Cooke to Andrew Sullivan. Evans began to gain a reputation on his return from the United States when he was appointed editor of the regional daily The Northern Echo.
One report was about the plight of hundreds of British children who suffered birth defects due to thalidomide. They had never received compensation from the drug manufacturers. He organized a campaign by the newspaper's Insight investigative team, and Evans took on the drug companies responsible for the manufacture of thalidomide, pursuing them through the English courts and eventually gaining victory in the European Court of Human Rights. As a result, the victims' families won compensation after more than a decade. Moreover, the British Government was compelled to change the law inhibiting the reporting of civil cases. Other investigative reports included the exposure of Kim Philby as a Soviet spy and the publication of the diaries of former Labour Minister Richard Crossman, for which he risked prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.
When Rupert Murdoch acquired Times Newspapers Limited in 1981, he appointed Evans as editor of The Times. He remained with the paper only a year, during which time The Times was critical of Margaret Thatcher. Over 50 journalists resigned in the first six months of Murdoch's takeover, a number of them known to dislike Evans. In March 1982, a group of Times journalists called for Evans to resign, despite the paper's increase in circulation, claiming that he had overseen an "erosion of editorial standards". Evans resigned shortly afterwards, citing policy differences with Murdoch relating to editorial independence. Evans wrote an account in a book entitled Good Times, Bad Times (1984). On leaving The Times, Evans became director of Goldcrest Films and Television.
Evans married fellow Durham graduate Enid Parker in 1953. In 1973, Evans met Tina Brown, a journalist 25 years his junior. In 1974 she was given freelance assignments with The Sunday Times in the UK, and in the US by its colour magazine. When a sexual affair emerged between the married Evans and Brown, she resigned and joined the rival The Sunday Telegraph. In 1978 Evans divorced Enid, and on 20 August 1981 Evans and Brown were married at Grey Gardens, in East Hampton, New York, the home of Ben Bradlee, then The Washington Post executive editor, and Sally Quinn.
In 1984, Evans moved to the United States, where he taught at Duke University. He was subsequently appointed editor-in-chief of The Atlantic Monthly Press and became editorial director of U.S. News & World Report. In 1986 he was the founding editor of Conde Nast Traveler, dedicated to "truth in travel". Evans was appointed president and publisher of Random House trade group from 1990 to 1997. Evans edited many authors including William Styron, Calvin Trillin, Neil Sheehan, Gail Sheehy, Edmund Morris, Shelby Foote, Maya Angelou and Shana Alexander. Gail Sheehy described working with Evans and how he was famous for his cryptic comments penciled on the manuscript, "We know this."
Evans was editorial director and vice chairman of U.S. News & World Report, the New York Daily News, and The Atlantic Monthly from 1997 to January 2000, when he resigned. His work The American Century won critical acclaim when it was published in 1998. The sequel, They Made America (2004), described the lives of some of the country's most important inventors and innovators. Fortune characterized it as one of the best books in the 75 years of that magazine's publication. The book was adapted as a four-part television mini-series that same year and as a National Public Radio special in the USA in 2005.