My Mentor: Phillip Knightley on Harold Evans
'He had all-round ability. There wasn't a job in journalism he couldn't do'
Monday 10 July 2006
I joined The Sunday Times in 1965 and Harry Evans arrived shortly after. The paper was changing from an old-fashioned, Tory-orientated newspaper into a dynamic exposure paper, and he was a breath of fresh air.
The Insight team got going and you were seconded there when things got interesting. The idea was to tell people what was really going on. Evans's role in that was absolute confidence in everybody working for him. He encouraged people to stretch themselves and never stinted on cost.
I realised I was working on something exceptional when someone said, "It's Paris Fashion Week. Let's have a new look at the fashion world". The next day, The Sunday Times had three fashion writers there, three reporters from Insight and two cameramen - and we got about 800 words!
But we had tried. If a similar idea had come up the following week, Evans would have said, "Go for it". He carried everybody's loyalty because of his all-round ability. There wasn't a job in journalism he couldn't do.
A big story was Thalidomide. If a section editor today went to the editor and said, "I want to do a story about a drug called Thalidomide. It's marketed for pregnant women but we suspect about 8,000 children have been born deformed because it's not safe. It's made by the biggest advertisers in our paper and they will fight all the way to prevent us from publishing. It mightn't stand up in the end, and if we include legal costs it might run to a couple of million", what editor would say go ahead?
Phillip Knightley was a Sunday Times investigative journalist for 20 years. Sir Harry Evans edited The Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981
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