by Allan Dodds Frank
Sir Harold Evans was a longtime friend of the Overseas Press Club who occasionally took time from his busy schedule to show up at an OPC event. His most recent appearance, that I can recall, was at the 2019 reception hosted by Reuters at its Times Square headquarters for winners of the Overseas Press Club Foundation scholarships.
Steven Adler, the editor-in-chief of Reuters, was the host and many of the top Reuters editors, including Evans, were there. But almost none of our young fellowship winners had any clue about being in the presence of a giant of journalism, the embodiment of the romance of journalism. What our OPC fellows saw initially, I knew, was a tiny old man with flowing silver hair, a mischievous smile and a cheery, if hurried, disposition. So, it was my pleasure and privilege to take several of our winners aside, clue them in about Sir Harry and then introduce them one-by-one. He could not have been more gracious, more engaged and more inquiring with real interest. In my experience, every really great editor I have known was an even better listener. Harry, while greeting our winners, showed that quality of sustained genuine attention to young reporters who hailed from unlikely quarters. Watching him, it was easy to see how he was famous for giving free reign to investigative teams he formed by combining disparate personalities and talents into a coherent unit.
I also recall a wonderful moment at the Byline Conference sponsored in New York by the London-based Frontline Club in November 2017. Sir Harry was to be the opening speaker of the late night “drinking and informal remarks session” scheduled for 8:50 p.m. The previous programs were already a little late, but the drinks break continued until a well-lubricated Sir Harry – coming from a black tie event he had attended with his illustrious wife – the editor Tina Brown – rolled out of a limo and into the hotel conference room in his tux. This conference was a few weeks after the Harvey Weinstein sexual predator story had broken, so I asked Harry about his wife Tina’s experiences with Harvey Weinstein when she was the editor of Talk, the short-lived magazine that Weinstein had financed. If you look at the picture above, Harry gave me the answer about how Harvey had behaved by poking me hard in the chest, just as Weinstein had done to Harry’s wife. It was so telling I asked Harry to do it again while someone took a picture of the reenactment of the moment. I do not remember much about the rest of Harry’s hilarious speech but I do recall that he loosened his tie, hung around for more cocktails and cheered every journo in the room.
When Tina founded The Daily Beast in 2008 and took over Newsweek in 2010, the understated presence of her loyal husband was evident as he quietly helped edit big stories on deadline.
As noted elsewhere on the OPC website, Sir Harry was a co-chair of our Awards Dinner in 2011 and in 2009, as President of the OPC, I interviewed him at a book night celebrating his effusive, entertaining and highly educational autobiography: “My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times.” Sadly, I think there is no video of that day, but the line of Sir Harry’s that I remember most clearly was his advice: “Always be curious.”