GOOD TIMES, BAD TIMES by Harold Evans

GOOD TIMES, BAD TIMES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Harold Evans is the wave-making editor Rupert Murdoch installed at the London Times and then, after a year, sacked; this is preeminently--though not entirely--his rejoinder. One can only wish that he'd gone about it with more dispatch, and less self-congratulation, for there are journalistic nuggets here, Evans vs. Murdoch & Co. apart. The first 80 pages (of 400+) are devoted to four of Evans' coups as editor of the Sunday Times (1967-81), under hands-off Thomson ownership: publication of the Crossman diaries, against government opposition; the Insight team reports on the Ermenonville DC-10 crash, the Philby case, and the Thalidomide disaster. The stories behind the stories--especially the stunned discovery of what inconspicuous defector Philby had really been up to--make good reading of their somewhat different kind: somewhat different because of the restraints on the British press, as Evans repeatedly notes, by contrast with America's First Amendment press freedom. Evans then moves into the sale of Times Newspapers to Murdoch--where blue-penciling would have been most advantageous. The detail, indeed, seems almost masochistic. Paper guarantees of editorial independence, largely of Evans' devising, were cheerfully given by Murdoch; Evans, looking to the government to block the sale on monopoly-grounds, couldn't say so editorially. The possibility had been raised that Murdoch would make him editor of The Times. Since he well knew Murdoch's record for interference, as well as his increasingly rightward drift, it's impossible not to think that he walked into the noose--forewarned, moreover, that Murdoch would jettison him after a year. The story of that year, though colored by Evans' resentments, is nonetheless fascinating. Evans altered the staid Times in ways that were both admired and resisted--by staffers and the public. There is very personal drama in his decision to publish the degree results of every university, not simply Oxford and Cambridge--and happening to proof the names for ""my own Durham."" There is smart newspapering in the material on design, editorial-writing, big-story coverage and presentation. Evans plays down Murdoch's immediate interference--in self-defense for staying on. Later, he plays up Murdoch's allegiance to Thatcherism and his ""Bugger Taste""/bugger news outrages (as well as his failure to abide by specific stipulations). The climax is, again, an overlong recital of deceits--but one does feel Evans' commitment and pain.

Pub Date: Jan. 16th, 1983
Publisher: Atheneum