My Mentor: Peter Stothard On Harold Evans

'He had a fantastic sense that journalism had to keep up with the times'
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The Independent Online

I was 28 at the time and I hadn't had the provincial newspaper experience. I was the political correspondent in business news, which hadn't really existed before, and I was writing about the very radical changes that Thatcher was planning for the economy, industry and the civil service. Harry was no Thatcherite but he was a great journalist. He had a love of the fresh and the new and he had a fantastic sense that journalism had to keep up with the times.

It seems obvious now that what an editor should do is be sensitive to changes in government and society. At that time that wasn't always the case. Newspapers were immensely hide-bound and traditional and they always thought the world was like it was yesterday.

When I arrived he was already a man of great myth and legend because The Sunday Times had exposed Kim Philby and fought the battles over Thalidomide. One of his great arts was seeming to be in two places at once and he was famously impossible to be close to for any length of time.

I only had a very short period as a writer and then Harry made me one of the group of people who he was bringing in to try to change The Times and I learnt a lot both from what went right and what went wrong. He was a controversial figure, but he was inspirational in making you realise you had to keep an eye on what the world was becoming, not just what it had been.

I couldn't claim to be an editor in the Harry Evans mould. In practical terms there was nothing that Harry could do that could make me a brilliant picture cropper, but what he did teach me was the importance of getting the best out of creative people.

Peter Stothard is the editor of the Times Literary Supplement

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