Sir Harold Evans, former editor of the Sunday Times and The Times and founding editor of Conde Nast Traveller, has resoundingly endorsed training courses accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists.
At an event held last week at the Criterion Theatre, London, as part of the Hay-on-Wye festival’s Autumn in London series, Sir Harold backed the NCTJ after speaking about his recently published autobiography My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times.
During a question and answer session Sir Harold was asked the best way for a young person to begin a career in journalism, to which his personal recommendation was to take a course accredited by the NCTJ.
Speaking after the event, Sir Harold said: “The work of the National Council for the Training of Journalists is indispensable – to individual careers and importantly the credibility and viability of journalism.
“When I got my first job as a weekly paper reporter, there was no NCTJ. It meant the start for all of us entering newspapers at the time was tricky. Accuracy was beaten into us, but even seniors had only the haziest ideas of the law.
“Many hard lessons were learned slowly, much time wasted and some leads abandoned out of old legal saws that were false, such as “the greater the truth, the greater the libel”.
“When in the 1960s I went to India, to advise Indian newspapers, with a group of British and Americans, I saw first hand how Indian newspapers were much inhibited by the lack of training – and I learned a lot about training myself.”
Sir Harold added: “Yes, geniuses may flourish without training…but I’ve not encountered many in fifty years.”
Sir Harold Evans started his career as a reporter for the Ashton-under-Lyne Weekly Reporter in Lancashire, a newspaper which is still published as an edition of the Tameside Reporter.
After earning an honours degree in politics and economics at Durham University (and editing the student newspaper) he became a sub, political reporter, and later editorial writer, on the Manchester Evening News. In 1956, he won a Harkness Fellowship for study at the universities of Chicago and Stanford, and for travel throughout the U.S. He wrote despatches for the Evening News and returned as assistant editor.
He was appointed editor of The Northern Echo in 1961. The paper won numerous awards for design and campaigning and six years later Evans was editor at The Sunday Times. In his time, from 1967 to 1981, the newspaper became renowned for its investigative reporting, revealing amongst other things the British Thalidomide scandal and the exposure of Kim Philby as a long-time Soviet spy. In 1981 he was invited to edit The Times on its acquisition by Mr Rupert Murdoch, and resigned one year later. Sir Harold later described this event in his book Good Times, Bad Times.
In 1984, Sir Harold moved to the US where he taught at Duke University, became editorial director in Washington of the magazine U News and World Report, founded the magazine Conde Nast Traveller and in 1990 became President of Random House. He was knighted for services to journalism in 2004.