By Jack Reed
Editors of Palatinate often go on to achieve great things after leaving Durham and Harold Evans is no exception. Editor of the Sunday Times for fourteen years, founder of Conde Nast Traveler and author of several successful books, Harold Evans has every reason to brush over his time as Editor of Palatinate. But he doesn’t. In fact, he sees his time at Durham as “indispensable for a career in journalism.” From somebody who has achieved what he has achieved, these are meaningful and powerful words, something each prospective journalist joining Durham should hold onto throughout their time here.
Evans seems to have rather blurry memories of Freshers’ Week, what with the trials, tribulations and revelations that come with every student’s experience. Yet, what he did hold onto were the friendships made. He reveals that “the friends I made in Freshers’ Week are still friends now,” and, while Freshers’ Week is stereotypically a week of carnage and chaos, this alumni sees it also as a time of fraternity and friendship.
His tremendous career within journalism all started at Palatinate, working his way up from initially, “pasting proofs in the paper.” Talking of working one’s way up, Evans refers specifically to the ‘greasy pole’ of journalism; the cut-throat arena that draws many comparisons to the brutality and selfishness of the political scene. “When you’re on the greasy pole of a career, grab anything. All big shots in Hollywood began in the mail room. All of them say they did, and enough of them did to make it unwise to challenge the fable.” Evans did it, those before him did it and anyone wanting to follow in his footsteps will have to do it too.
His career effectively started on the humble cobbles of Durham and, to many fellow journalists and onlookers, his career was made when he became Sunday Times editor in 1967 and held the post until 1981, a remarkable achievement that yielded remarkable results for Evans. But, interestingly, he doesn’t see this as his biggest achievement; when questioned, he said that, “working with terrific people to win the thalidomide victory in the European Court of Human Rights,” was what he was most proud of. A tremendous feat and perhaps the skill refined at Durham to “find things in books” proved rather useful throughout his career.
For Evans though, Durham wasn’t just a stepping stone for him on his journalistic journey. No, in fact, it is a place he describes as “magic.” And he’s not referring to the module on Harry Potter in Durham’s Education degree. He recalls Durham fondly, saying, “this amazing, historic peninsula awakens dormant senses. Who could not be thrilled, and changed, by the learning, the music, the debates, the architecture, the companionship, the contiguity of town and gown.” Simply, Evans sums up the very essence of being a Durham student; such is the quaint and small nature of the city, you not only become a student here, but an integral part of the community. It is a place of great and wonderful history, fitting for such a prestigious learning institution. Don’t miss your chance – go and grab it.
Photograph: Creative Commons