Harold Evans, the British journalist on crusade who was kicked out of his post as editor of The Times of London by Rupert Murdoch in 1982 and reinvented himself in the United States as a publisher, author and literary luminary, has died Wednesday night in New York. He was 92 years old.
His wife, editor-in-chief Tina Brown, confirmed his death in a statement. She told Reuters, where Mr Evans had been managing editor, that the cause was congestive heart failure.
From the smoky newsrooms of Fleet Street to the starry literary circles of New York City, Mr. Evans has enjoyed success with relentless independence, innovative ideas and an appetite for risks that often led to post-war changes in journalism, publishing and the tastes of the public on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Britain, he helped redefine high-quality newspapers and pushed back legal restrictions on the press. In the United States, he edited national magazines, introduced a new scope and sparkle in book publishing as the director of Random House, wrote history books and bestselling memoirs and, along with Ms. Brown, who edited Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, dazzled and upset cognoscenti.
He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004 for his services to journalism, having left Britain 20 years earlier and became a US citizen.
As editor-in-chief of The Sunday Times for 14 years, from 1967 to 1981, and for another year at its daily sister publication, The Times of London, Mr. Evans eliminated gray columns of typeface and stifling lore, creating circulation with investigative reports, sophisticated news analysis and eye-catching layouts and photographs.
Sometimes risking ruinous fines or even jail time, he challenged British defamation and national security laws; successfully campaigned for national Pap tests to detect cervical cancer; exposed the horrors of thalidomide; and traced the awkwardness of the British secret service in the case of Kim Philby, the double agent who defected to Moscow.
Journalists in 2002 voted for him as the greatest British newspaper editor of all time. But at the height of his success, he clashed with Mr Murdoch, the Australian media mogul. Mr Murdoch had added The Times and The Sunday Times, together the broadsheet voice of the British establishment for 200 years, to his tabloid empire, then reneged on his promise not to interfere with their editorial independence.
It was a titanic one-year struggle that Mr. Evans inevitably lost, as he recalled in “Good Times, Bad Times,” a 1983 memoir that chronicled the episode. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the values and judgment of the owner,” he wrote. “At its highest levels, a great newspaper is not just a personal possession but a public trust.”
Arriving in the United States in 1984, he landed on his feet, but his wife hit the ground running. Former editor-in-chief of Tatler magazine in Great Britain, Ms Brown became editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair (1984-92) and The New Yorker (1992-98), injecting new energy into these magazines while stoking controversies with its own iconoclastic style. She later started and edited the The Daily Beast news website. Mr. Evans has taught at universities, edited several publications and was the founding editor of Condé Nast Traveler.
But it was as president and publisher of Random House, from 1990 to 1997, that he gained notoriety and came to symbolize an era of change in publishing, a company unaccustomed to rapid and surprising movements. . Acting with journalistic swiftness, Mr. Evans rocked staff, spent millions, turned profits, caused resentment and admiration, and created a buzz more often associated with Hollywood movies than books.
His tenure from owner, SI Newhouse Jr., was to revamp a narrowly focused, barely profitable house that had epitomized excellence since the publication of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” in 1934. He quickly expanded Random’s list of titles. House to include business, science, art, photography, poetry, news and bestselling novels.
He has published Norman Mailer, William Styron, EL Doctorow, Joe Klein’s anonymous 1996 novel “Primary Colors” and “My American Journey” by General Colin L. Powell (1995, with Joseph E. Persico). But he spent too much on certain advances: $ 2.5 million for “Behind the Oval Office” by Dick Morris (1997) and $ 5 million for Marlon Brando’s autobiography, “Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me” (1994, with Robert Lindsey).
Mr Evans was bubbling with enthusiasm for the photographs of Richard Avedon and Robert Mapplethorpe, for a reintroduced list of modern library classics and for his shameless business promotions – a Shaw festival plays to publicize a new biography and, to announce “Beast,” Peter Benchley’s giant octopus sequel to “Jaws,” beach banners proclaiming “There’s Something in the Water!”
It generated huge publicity with its sold-out star-studded literary breakfasts in Manhattan, featuring panel discussions by famous authors, and it drew a celebrity parade to parties narrated by paparazzi at the Garden Apartment. Evans-Brown in fashionable Sutton Place east of Manhattan Côté.
At a party or breakfast, Mr. Evans conveyed a tired world charm, speaking in cultivated tones of books and newspaper adventures. Stiff at 5ft 7in, it could appear slightly crumpled the entire trip. Beneath flowing hair, her expression was quintessentially thoughtful, a face of Fellini: gaunt, intense, bordered by a life of editorial decisions.
Harold Matthew Evans was born in Manchester, England on June 28, 1928, the eldest of four sons of Frederick and Mary (Haselum) Evans. His father was a railway engineer, his mother a grocery store. He was 11 when World War II started and he hid with his family in shelters near their filthy townhouse on the outskirts of Manchester as German bombers destroyed the city center.
He graduated in 1943 from St. Mary’s Road Central School, where he played soccer, edited a student newspaper and became an avid film buff. “Hollywood reinforced my infatuation with newspapers,” he recalls. “I identified with the small town editor who stands up to crooks, the tough journalist who won the story and the girl, and the foreign correspondent who outwits enemy agents.”
He got his first job in 1944 in a weekly, The Ashton-under-Lyne Reporter, before serving in the Royal Air Force from 1946 to 1949. He studied economics and political science at Durham University, graduated in 1952, then joined The Manchester Evening News as a journalist and columnist. On an American scholarship from 1956 to 1957, he studied at the University of Chicago and Stanford University.
In 1953, Mr. Evans married Enid Parker. They had three children, Ruth, Katherine and Michael, and divorced in 1978. He married Mrs Brown in 1981 – they had met when he was writing The Sunday Times and she wrote for the newspaper as a freelance writer – and had two children with her, George and Isabel, who also survive her.
In 1961, Mr. Evans became editor-in-chief of The Northern Echo, a newspaper in Darlington, a working-class area in the north-east of England. There he began the crusade, demanding an investigation into the case of Timothy Evans (no relative), who had been hanged in 1950 for killing his wife and baby girl, largely on the testimony of a neighbor who then been convicted of the crimes. His campaign resulted in a posthumous pardon and helped abolish the death penalty in Britain in 1965.
Hired in 1966 by The Sunday Times, he became editor-in-chief a year later and transformed the serious weekly into Britain’s best investigative newspaper. His reports in 1967 revealed that Soviet mole Kim Philby had not been a low-level diplomat when he defected in 1963, but anti-Soviet intelligence chief and CIA liaison chief accuses Mr. Evans had endangered national security with his revelations were removed in embarrassment.
What many have called his greatest triumph arose in an investigation into the tranquilizer thalidomide, which caused severe deformities in thousands of babies and led to lawsuits against a drug maker. Mr Evans campaigned for compensation for victims and challenged a law banning the publication of articles that could interfere with pending prosecutions. Drugmaker finally paid for settlements, European Court of Human Rights ruled Britain’s efforts to suppress the reports violated freedom of speech, and Parliament liberalized the country’s civil contempt laws.
After his much-publicized departure from The Times and relocating to the United States, Mr. Evans taught at Duke and Yale universities, became editor-in-chief of book publisher The Atlantic Monthly Press, and took on the post of editorial director of The Atlantic Monthly Press. US News magazine. & World Report, with a mandate to rethink it.
He was then founding editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Traveler, where he worked from 1986 to 1990. The magazine broke new ground with tough reporting from writers who, unlike those covering the travel industry for many other publications, were not allowed to accept travel, meals or accommodations from those they wrote about. Some advertisers pulled out, but the magazine flourished and won awards.
Mr. Evans became a US citizen in 1993. After leaving Random House in 1997, he served as director of The Daily News in New York, US News & World Report (in a second stint), The Atlantic Monthly and the business magazine Fast. Company.
During this time, he wrote “The American Century” (1998, with Gail Buckland and Kevin Baker), a richly illustrated bestseller that critics have called an ambitious and innovative approach to the story.
Other books followed: “War Stories: Reporting in the Time of Conflict From the Crimea to Iraq” (2003), “They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine, Two Centuries of Innovators” (2004, with Gail Buckland and David Lefer), his successful memoir “My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times” (2009) and “Do I Make Myself Clear? Why write well, it matters ”(2018).
In 2011, he was appointed editor-in-chief of the Reuters news agency.
For all of Mr. Evans’ forays into magazine publishing, book publishing and writing, he never lost his passion for newspapers. “How delicious the smell of warm newsprint is!” he wrote in “My Paper Chase”. And he remained a muckraker at heart. “A newspaper is an argument on the way to a deadline,” he said. “If there is no argument, there is not much newspaper.”
Yet he feared for the future of newspapers and what impact their decline could have on the democratic institutions he so much praised in his book “The American Century”.
“I think a certain commitment to the public good has vanished in the race for circulation,” he told NPR in 2009. “I think that is accentuated when you get newspapers picked up, like you do. ‘ve made across America, by people who borrow heavily. buy the newspaper, or never cared about what real journalism is in the first place.
“The kind of investigative journalism, which I think is the absolute essence, is in danger and, in fact, has disappeared in many places,” he added. “We have to have this projector to know what’s going on. So when the newspapers or the television neglect the reporting, so that you get pieces of opinion without any factual basis, we are all going to suffer. “