My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times

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9780316031424: My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times

In My Paper Chase, Harold Evans recounts the wild and wonderful tale of newspapering life. His story stretches from the 1930s to his service in WWII, through towns big and off the map. He discusses his passion for the crusading style of reportage he championed, his clashes with Rupert Murdoch, and his struggle to use journalism to better the lives of those less fortunate. There's a star-studded cast and a tremendously vivid sense of what once was: the lead type, the smell of the presses, eccentrics throughout, and angry editors screaming over the intercoms. My Paper Chase tells the story of Evans's great loves: newspapers and Tina Brown, the bright, young journalist who became his wife.

In an age when newspapers everywhere are under threat, My Paper Chase is not just a glorious recounting of an amazing life, but a nostalgic journey in black and white.

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About the Author:

Harold Evans is the author of the New York Times bestseller The American Century. He was the founding editor of Conde Nast Traveler, editorial director of U.S. News & World Report, and president and publisher of Random House, where he published a record number of bestsellers. He was editor of the London Sunday Times and of The Times. He lives in New York.

From The Washington Post:

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Leonard Downie Jr. Harold Evans, a Manchester-born British newspaper editor who became an American citizen in 1993, is not as well known as he should be in his adopted country. He has written two best-selling books about American history, published a record number of bestsellers by other authors as president of Random House, started Conde Nast Traveler magazine and served as editorial director of U.S. News & World Report. In Britain, however, before he moved to the United States in 1983, Harold Evans was nationally known as the most influential newspaper editor of his time. As the crusading editor of the Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981, he championed investigative journalism that, among other accomplishments, achieved justice for the deformed child victims of the drug thalidomide and exposed the treason of Soviet spy Kim Philby. He repeatedly and successfully challenged heavy-handed British government secrecy and censorship, significantly increasing freedom of the press in a country without a First Amendment. He mentored countless prominent British journalists and filled bookstores with their Sunday Times books. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004. Evans's memoir, aided by prescient personal diaries, is a victory lap, recounting in detail his remarkable climb from teenage cub reporter, raised in a working-class family in England's Midlands, to the top of British journalism, without the usually requisite Oxbridge pedigree. Although his engaging, conversational narrative is sprinkled with wry self-deprecation and generous credit for many people he worked with over the years, its hero is clearly the first-person narrator, to a sometimes cloying degree. At one point, Evans describes his editorship of the Sunday Times as "my power base as a defender of press freedom." As its subtitle implies, his memoir also is an excursion into nostalgia for the pre-computer days of swashbuckling, competitive British newspaper journalism with metal type, multiple editions, crowded newsrooms, constant deadlines, gruff editors, reputation-making scoops, groundbreaking investigative reporting and tense conflicts with unions and the government. Some of the dense detail is too peculiar to British life and newspapering, even for the journalists among American readers. But the story picks up when Evans narrates campaigns he directed as an editor, first at the provincial Northern Star and then at the London-based Sunday Times. His campaigns combined aggressive reporting, editorializing and even lobbying to right wrongs. They included a drive at the Northern Star to exonerate a man who had been wrongly executed for murder and the Sunday Times crusade to win financial compensation for children born with foreshortened or no limbs after their mothers had taken thalidomide for morning sickness between 1958 and 1962. The latter effort included one of Evans's many confrontations with criminal contempt and official secrecy laws that had restricted reporting in Britain. Evans's campaigns and his creation of the pioneering Sunday Times's investigative team paralleled the expansion of investigative reporting in the United States, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing publication of the Pentagon Papers and The Washington Post's Watergate reporting. But there was a difference that Evans does not really address. Most American newspapers keep their news reporting, including investigative reporting, separate from their editorial opinions -- and their editors do not personally lobby for reform of problems revealed by their reporting. Evans does make clear his pride in his campaigns, the hallmark of his career. And he lists rules for them. "The paper had to have investigated the subject thoroughly enough to be sure that there was a genuine grievance, it had to have defined a practical remedy, it had to be ready to commit the resources for a sustained effort, and had to open its columns to counterarguments and corrections of fact," he writes. "No campaign should be ended until it had succeeded -- or was proven wrong." When Rupert Murdoch bought the daily and Sunday Times newspapers, he persuaded Evans to become editor of the daily Times in 1981, only to force him out a year later, apparently because Evans was too independent of his control. That, and Evans's divorce from his first wife and marriage to a much younger British journalist, Tina Brown, were eventually followed by the couple's move to America. "If he hadn't given me a shove," Evans writes about his showdown with Murdoch, "I wouldn't have enjoyed twenty-five exuberant years exploring new frontiers." In addition to Evans's busy second act in American magazine and book publishing, Tina Brown has been editor, in succession, of Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and Talk magazines, and founder of the Daily Beast Web site. They have lived in a two-story apartment on New York's Upper East Side and a beach house in Westhampton, an area that reminds Evans of the English seaside. Yet he races through their quarter-century in America at the tail end of a book that dwells on his life in Britain working at newspapers. In this readable, almost wistful memoir, Sir Harold Evans remains the rare self-made Englishman who changed British journalism. downiel@washpost.com
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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