Harold Evans in 1975. Photo: Ben Martin/Getty Images.

Harold Evans (1928–2020)

Harold Evans, the swashbuckling newspaperman who redefined publishing on both sides of the Atlantic—first as a muckraker for London broadsheets and then as the chief of Random House in New York—died last week at ninety-two. His death was confirmed by his wife, Tina Brown, the iconic editor of American magazines. Evans, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004 despite having left the country two decades prior and obtained US citizenship, authored and edited myriad books and contributed to dozens of publications, including this one, and in recent years operated as editor-at-large for Reuters.

Born to a locomotive driver and a grocery shopkeeper in Manchester in 1928, Evans worked at various regional dailies before becoming, in 1966, the editor of The Sunday Times. In England, he forged a trailblazing career that involved exposing the dangers of thalidomide, tracing the Kim Philby espionage fiasco, battling press censorship, and helping abolish England’s death penalty. After that career culminated in a notorious expulsion from the Times News company in the early ’80s, Evans moved with Brown to Manhattan, where both newlyweds revitalized a then-stagnant publishing industry.

A pioneer when it came to nearly every facet of print journalism, Evans once lent his newspapering acuity to Artforum, for its influential February 1982 edition. That month’s publication—a special issue whose cover featured a look from Issey Miyake’s spring/summer collection—was printed on newsprint, to emphasize its focus on mass media and perhaps the urgency of its underlying question: What belongs within the realm of art and its influences? Evans, who had recently released his book Picture and the Page, was invited to contribute a feature on photojournalism which came to include a portfolio of emblematic images from the Kent State massacre, the war in Vietnam, and the Iranian hostage crisis, among other events. “The newspaper photograph at its best,” Evans wrote, “is also an unforgettable observation.”

Unbeknownst to Artforum’s staff at the time—including editor-in-chief Ingrid Sischy, whom Brown would later appoint as The New Yorker’s fashion writer—Evans took on the assignment despite being embroiled in a now-infamous yearlong dispute with Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch, who had recently acquired Times Newspapers. A month later, Evans would be forced to resign.