Sir Harold Evans Describes Threats To Investigative Reporting

Sir Harold Evans

Sir Harold Evans -- one of the world's most influential and illustrious editors, authors and investigative reporters -- was my Washington Update radio guest on Feb. 23, now available in archive here. He discussed current threats to journalism and his much-praised memoir: My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times.

He led MTL co-host Scott Draughon and me through fascinating reflections on his book and such recent developments as the current hacking scandal in the United Kingdom implicating his former boss, Rupert Murdoch. Now editor-at-large for Reuters, Evans covered the historic hearings in London this year focused on how much top officials in the Murdoch news empire knew of massive illegal wiretapping by its newspaper staffers. Separately, he warned of the ruinous threat that a recent libel case in London poses to investigative reporting.  Nathaniel Rothschild, one of Europe's richest men, sued The Daily Mail for 1.5 million pounds. Our report on that and its grave implications for United States politics, buHarold Evanssiness and jobs is here: Rothschild Loses Libel Suit In 'Puppet-Master' Regulatory Scandal.

Evans brings rare expertise to these topics. He was president and publisher of Random House, the largest trade (aka general circulation) book publisher in the United States. Earlier he was the editor of The Sunday Times and The Times, top newspapers in his native Great Britain. In 2001, British journalists voted him the all-time greatest British newspaper editor. He was knighted in 2004. He lives in New York with his wife, Tina Brown, famed editor of The Daily Beast / Newsweek and previously the top editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.

His memoir My Paper Chase, now in paperback, is described by the publisher as follows:

Evans recounts the wild and wonderful tale of his newspapering and publishing odyssey, which took him from Manchester to London and finally to America. In England, he would become the editor of two of the most famous newspapers in the world, the Sunday Times and The Times of London; crack England’s biggest spy scandal; expose the cause of the world’s worst air crash of its time, involving the DC-10; and uncover one of the greatest health scandals of the century.

Then it would be on to New York, where he would begin all over again as a book publisher, acquiring the memoirs of Colin Powell, Marlon Brando, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon – and the unknown Barack.  [See below for further description.], with video interviews here.]

On Feb. 23, he joined my co-host and MTL network founder Scott Draughon and me on a show heard live worldwide, and now available by archive here. My Paper Chase is described this way: “A jaw-dropping social history,” commented critic Andrew Marr. “The best education possible in what true journalism’s all about.”  Details are below about several of developments regarding the news industry and of global importance.

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Selected News Reports Referenced Above

Peter Lord MandelsonJustice Integrity Project, Rothschild Loses Libel Suit In 'Puppet-Master' Regulatory Scandal, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 17, 2012.   A London judge has ruled against a billionaire member of the Rothschild banking family who sought huge damages because a newspaper reported he was "puppet-master" of a leading European Union (EU) leader who had been Rothschild's guest on a visit to Russia. In a ruling of global importance in permitting media scrutiny of the powerful, the judge rejected Nathaniel "Nat" Rothschild’s $1.5 million pound lawsuit claiming the Daily Mail libeled him by reporting on his 2005 trip with two rich business partners and then-EU Trade Minister Peter Mandelson. The latter, since elevated to the United Kingdom's nobility as Lord Mandelson, is shown at right in a photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

New York Times, Hacking Cases Focus on Memo to a Murdoch, Sarah Lyall and Ravi Somaiya, Feb. 11, 2012. As dozens of investigators and high-powered lawyers converge on Rupert Murdoch’s News International in the phone hacking scandal, attention has focused on the printout of an e-mail excavated three months ago from a sealed carton left behind in an empty company office. Addressed to Mr. Murdoch’s son James, it contained explosive information about the scale of phone hacking at The News of the World tabloid — information James Murdoch says he failed to take in because he did not read the whole e-mail chain. The e-mail returned to cause trouble for News International, the British newspaper subsidiary of News Corporation, several weeks ago when the company said that it had been deleted from Mr. Murdoch’s computer. Even as people familiar with the investigations said the e-mail and its convoluted history will form a crucial part of the inquiry into allegations of a cover-up, the scandal appeared to be widening on Saturday, as senior journalists at News Corporation’s Sun tabloid were arrested.

Rupert MurdochCNN, Sun newspaper staff among eight arrested in police probe, Per Nyberg and Laura Smith-Spark, Feb. 10, 2012.  Authorities arrested eight people Saturday -- including five journalists of Britain's bestselling Sun newspaper -- as part of an inquiry into alleged illegal payments to police and officials. The other three are a police officer, an employee of the Ministry of Defense and a member of the armed forces, the Metropolitan Police said. A search was carried out at News International's offices in east London, the police said, as well as the homes of those arrested. News International, which owns the Sun, is a U.K. subsidiary of media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Murdoch is shown at right in a photo courtesy of Wikipedia.  Following the arrests, Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp, issued a personal assurance to one of his executives to continue to own and publish The Sun newspaper, according to an internal staff memo sent by News International Chief Executive Tom Mockridge. Mockridge also said he was "very saddened" by the arrests of deputy editor Geoff Webster, picture editor John Edwards, chief reporter John Kay, chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker, and John Sturgis, who is a news editor. The five journalists were arrested at their homes, police said.

Peter MandelsonIndependent (United Kingdom), Rothschild loses libel case, and reveals secret world of money and politics, Tom Peck, Feb. 11, 2012. Thanks to billionaire's legal battle, we now know a lot more about how the super-rich work. With his long limbs and delicate gait, Lord Mandelson [left in a Wikipedia photo] could no doubt manage a quite convincing turn in Thunderbirds. He'd find Jeff Tracy most convivial: a billionaire astronaut with his own Pacific island, and now, it seems, he even has his own camera-shy friend to pull the strings. According to the High Court, Nathaniel Rothschild, scion of the banking dynasty and friend of seemingly everyone in the spheres of finance, business and politics, is indeed "puppet master" to the Baron of Hartlepool and Foy. The banker and Bullingdon boy has lost his libel case against the Daily Mail, which he sued for "substantial damages" over its account of his and Mr. Mandelson's extraordinary trip to Russia in January 2005.

FireDogLake, Marie Colvin, 1946-2012, Jane Hamsher, Feb. 22, 2012. I met Marie Colvin briefly in 2005 at the Full Frame film festival in Durham, North Carolina. She and Molly Bingham (who went on to become a friend of the blog) were both featured in Barbara Kopple’s documentary about women journalists in Iraq, Bearing Witness. Marie’s hotel room was next door to mine and her celebration party was loud and long, lasting into the wee hours of the morning.  She was a remarkable woman who knew how to enjoy life. She was killed in Syria today. David Remmick writes an apt tribute to her in The New Yorker.  I also came across the video above in which Marie spoke about the responsibility she felt to ask questions that made the powers that be uncomfortable, and to publish what she learned — even when she was asked to do otherwise.  She was one of the rare people who made it incredibly difficult to pasteurize and homogenize the story of war with embedded reporters and a steady stream of feel-good propaganda. She dedicated her life to making the world look at the realities of war, and the integrity she brought to the reporting profession will be sorely missed.

Daily Mail (United Kingdom), The Russian oligarch, the Old Etonian billionaire and deeply disturbing questions about Lord Mandelson's integrity, Richard Pendlebury, Feb.11, 2012. Siberia in January is a very cold place indeed. What relief, then, for four weary travellers to be able to warm themselves in front of the furnace of an enormous smelter — all wearing hard hats bearing the corporate logo of Rusal, the world’s largest aluminium producer. One of the men is Oleg Deripaska, the controversial Russian oligarch and boss of Rusal. He owns the gigantic Sayanogorsk plant near the tundra city of Abakan. At his side is his youthful British friend and adviser, the Honourable Nat Rothschild. A billionaire financier in his own right. A third member of the party is Peter Munk, the Canadian founder and chairman of the world’s largest gold-producing corporation. Mr. Munk is a business partner of Deripaska and Rothschild.

John McCainWayne Madsen Report, John McCain's 70th birthday bash held on boat of Russian tycoon, Wayne Madsen, June 8, 2008. John McCain's campaign is trying to make political hay out of the conviction of Chicago tycoon Tony Rezko, a one-time fundraiser for presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. However, the McCain campaign wants to bury the story of McCain's 70th birthday bash held on board the yacht of a Russian aluminum tycoon in the Adriatic Sea. The party was held on August 29, 2006, McCain's birthday and followed a congressional junket by McCain, left, and five other GOP senators to the Republic of Georgia. The host for McCain's yacht party off the coast of the Republic of Montenegro was, according to WMR sources with close links to the Republican Party, Oleg Deripaska, one of Russia's most powerful tycoons who made his billions in cornering Russia's aluminum market in the 1990s.

Wall Street Journal, Peace, of sorts, has broken out at Bumi PLC, Andrew Peaple, Feb. 15, 2012. The coal miner's major Indonesian shareholders have dropped their call for an extraordinary general meeting to push through sweeping changes to its board and management, including the ousting of Co-Chairman Nat Rothschild. Instead, the Bakrie family and investor Samin Tan will now take their bid to promote their appointees to Bumi's board next month after a deal brokered by two of its independent directors, Julian Horn-Smith and Lord Robin Renwick. Given that the Bakrie-Tan bloc effectively controls 43% of Bumi voting rights, it is likely get its way.  That suggests Mr. Rothschild has been granted only a temporary reprieve. Few will shed tears for the financier, who bought Bumi to London via a reverse takeover into cash shell Vallar and has since made an eye-popping 80% return on his initial investment even as the shares have slumped 25%. But he isn't the only one whose reputation has been badly damaged by this sorry saga. Vallar's bankers—primarily J.P. Morgan Cazenove—deserve criticism for having promoted the Vallar model, which appears to have been little more than a vehicle to engineer a backdoor London listing for a business that would never have survived the scrutiny of a full listing. The Financial Services Authority has now acted to close the loophole that allowed Bumi to access the London market by proposing tighter rules on reverse takeovers—a problem too in the U.S., where several low-grade Chinese companies have been able to obtain backdoor listings.

Karl RoveLegal Schnauzer, Why Did Karl Rove and His GOP Thugs Target Don Siegelman in Alabama? Roger Shuler, Feb. 6, 2012. (1) Why did Karl Rove [right] and his pro-business GOP thugs target Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman? (2) Why did the Bush administration proceed with what has become the most notorious political prosecution in American history? Those questions are particularly powerful now because Siegelman last week filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court for review of his 2006 convictions on bribery and obstruction of justice charges. This appears to be Siegelman's last crack at appellate review, and if it is denied, he probably is headed back to federal prison. I've probably written more words about the Siegelman affair than just about anyone on the planet, so I might as well take a crack at answering those questions.

Justice Integrity Project, Inside Story on DoD's $35 Billion Boeing Air Force Tanker Deal, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 25, 2011. The Department of Defense Thursday announced its choice of Boeing for a $35 billion contract to build the Air Force’s next generation of mid-air refueling tankers. Boeing’s selection, subject to any challenge by the losing bidder EADS, could end a decade-long, scandal-ridden process that became one of the controversial and important in modern U.S. procurement history. The Justice Integrity Project has tracked the proceeding closely for a year and a half after learning from reliable sources details about industrial espionage and skullduggery in the contract battle. This went far beyond even the scandals showcased in Senate oversight hearings led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Those scandals sent a Boeing executive and former Air Force procurement officer to prison on bribery charges and led to DoD revocation in 2005 of the initial award to Boeing.

Greg, Alert: British paper faces suit over Palast investigation, Greg Palast, June 29, 2001. In retaliation for the investigative story about the finances of the George W. Bush campaign, Barrick Gold Mining of Canada has sued my paper, the Observer of London, for libel. The company, which hired the elder Bush after his leaving the White House, is charging the newspaper with libel for quoting an Amnesty International report, which alleged that 50 miners might have been buried alive in Tanzania by a company now owned by Barrick. The company has also demanded the Observer and its parent, Guardian Newspapers, force me to remove the article from my US website, a frightening extension of Britain’s punitive libel laws into the World Wide Web. The company has also issued legal threats against Tanzanian human rights lawyer Tundu Lissu, one of the Observer’s independent sources and an investigator of the mine-site allegations. The attack by Barrick and its controversial Chairman, Peter Munk, one of the wealthiest men in Canada, who boasts of his propensity to sue, also aims to gag my reporting on his company’s purchase of rights to a gold mine in Nevada -- containing $10 billion in gold -- for a payment of under $10,000 to the US Treasury. My Observer story, "Best Democracy Money Can Buy," looked into the activities of several corporations linked to the Bushes. It was in that article I first disclosed that over 50,000 Florida voters, most of them Black, were wrongly tagged as ‘felons,’ and targeted for removal from the voter rolls. My follow-up reports in, The Nation, and the Washington Post as well as on BBC-TV’s Newsnight provided the basis for the US Civil Rights Commission finding of massive, wrongful voter disenfranchisement in Florida.

Other Radio Show Highlights

Scott DraughonMy Technology Lawyer, You Must Be Kidding -- Right? Scott Draughon, left, Feb. 22, 2012. The notion that contraception is a key issue in the 2012 Presidential race is insulting to the American people. Unemployment is over 8%, but the Administration wants to debate contraception? Iran is about to obtain nuclear weapons but instead of a serious policy pressuring Iranians, the Administration wants to beat-up on Catholics? Escalating debt is pushing America toward a 90% debt threshold that will make the riots in Greece look like a Sunday school picnic, and the Administration is morally outraged over the issue of free birth control pills? What in the hell is wrong with President Obama, The White House and the Democratic Party? If ever there was an analogy to re-arranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, this is it!

Business Insider, New WikiLeaks Drop Alleges That Sweden’s Foreign Minister Has Been a U.S. Spy, Adam Taylor, Feb. 22, 2012. WikiLeaks is said to be preparing a release that will allege Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has been a US informant since the 1970s.  The news was broken by Swedish newspaper Expressen, who have access to an internal Wikileaks memo. The memo says that the allegations are supposedly based on a US diplomat's report, and will be politically explosive. "He will be forced to resign", one source told the paper. Bildt is alleged to have reported to Karl Rove, the former advisor to George W. Bush, in the document — Bildt has publicly admitted he meets with Rove but in an informal manner. However, the document reportedly reveals he has acted as an "informer" to the US government since 1973.

Wikipedia bio and photo, below: Nils Daniel Carl Bildt KCMG, born in 1949, is a Swedish politician and diplomat. Formerly Prime Carl BildtMinister of Sweden from 1991 to 1994 and leader of the liberal conservative Moderate Party from 1986 to 1999, Bildt has served as Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs since 6 October 2006.

He has also been noted internationally as a mediator in the Balkan conflict, serving as the European Union's Special Envoy to the Former Yugoslavia from June 1995, co-chairman of the Dayton Peace Conference in November 1995 and as High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from December 1995 to June 1997 immediately after the Bosnian War. From 1999 to 2001, he served as the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Balkans.

My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times

Creating a tremendously vivid sense of what once was – the hot metal type, the smell of the presses, the heroes who gave their lives to write a final paragraph from a foreign battlefield – My Paper Chase is not just a glorious remembrance of an amazing life, but a poignant reminder of all that newspapers have been, and all that they can be again.

From a wartime beach in Wales to the gleaming skyscrapers of twenty-first-century Manhattan, the extraordinary career of Fleet Street legend Harold Evans has spanned five decades of tumultuous social, political and creative change. His is an inspiring story of early struggles leading to a career in journalism at its most exhilarating and glamorous, of breathtaking scoops, adrenaline-fueled newsroom and corridors of power. Just how did a working-class Lancashire boy, who failed the 11-plus, rise to a position where he could effectively give voice to the unheard?

Evans give us a vivid insight into what it takes to confront arbitrary power, while evoking warm memories of the working-class England from which he came. Born in the bleak years between the wars in the sprawl of Greater Manchester into a thrifty, diligent and loving family, he inherited only the privilege of his parents' example. His father was a railwayman, his mother started a street corner grocery. Theirs was a work ethic that led Evans through night-school classes, national services and, finally, to his unassailably successful editorship of one of our greatest newspapers, the Sunday Times. Whether unpicking the murderous chaos of Bloody Sunday, giving an exposè of Kim Philby, pursuing a foreign correspondent's murderers or uncovering the atrocity of thalidomide, this consummate newsman evokes his contagious passion: for the real story and the truth.

Click here for video interviews