What was your favourite gift you were given at Christmas?
When starting my journalism course (you can read more about it here) one of my teachers mentioned Harold Evans. A lot. So, I googled him-and asked for his biography My Paperchase, for Christmas. In retrospect, this seemed rather apt, given the trade I’m training for.
After reading it, I came to the conclusion that this book needs to be adapted to a drama, at least a Netflix box set . Stuffed full to the brim with captivating tales of the newspaper trade, if it was on the big screen, it would have a captive audience. With reference to the recent release of The Post (wonderful film!), this seems even more prevalent.
The sections of the book that deal with his career in investigative journalism had me captivated the most. Exposure of a Soviet spy? Check. There’s also the issue of Thalidomide; how can a journalist, who sees such an injustice, help the people at the heart of the story, when their position is legally precarious? You change the law as you go along. (Although more complex than just this simple sentence, you can find out more in the brilliant Netflix documentary Attacking The Devil. See the trailer here.)
My favourite chapter is “Death In Cairo”. Parts of this book shocked me-after all, I am only eighteen, and haven’t experienced as much as the author. It was this chapter that shocked me the most of all. A member of The Sunday Times fails to check into his hotel room; what happens next? I think that it also shows what it means to be an investigative journalist . There’s also interesting revelations; the office of the paper has had things stolen from it, for instance.
I was also struck by how kind Harry seems to be throughout the book; he has a real love of journalism, but also people. From helping the people affected by Thalidomide, to travelling down to the Deep South (complete with opposition to the sheer level of racism throughout), it almost appears integral to his success as a journalist. He can be brusque, sometimes blunt, yet people make up the core of the book. (Prior to Christmas, he also send me a tweet, including the line: ‘Without honest, brave reporting, we are blind.”) Moments of hilarity are also sporadically sprinkled throughout the book.
That’s the best sort of journalist and personality traits/
I think that the book could have benefitted from being more chronological; there are jumps forward and back in time. It can be confusing at times, and I found it difficult to keep track of the timeline of events. I would have also have liked to have seen more about Evans’ time in America, like the book The Vanity Fair Diaries, by Tina Brown (his wife.) The book can also occasionally be abrupt; perhaps the connections between chapters could have been more polished.
This book has something for everyone; whether you’re training to be a journalist, or are a journalist, like a good story, etc, I think this is the book for you.