Sir Harold Evans was a giant of journalism, a fearless campaigner and a champion of the free press, former colleagues, media figures and politicians have said.
Tributes have been paid to the former Sunday Times editor, who later moved to the US and into publishing. Victims of the thalidomide scandal, whose families his groundbreaking campaign helped, were among those to pay their respects.
Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: “Sir Harold Evans was a giant among journalists who strove to put the ordinary man and woman at the heart of his reporting.
“He took on the establishment without fear or favour and earned a deserved reputation as one of the world’s greatest editors.
“In his 70 years as a journalist he never lost sight of the need to maintain integrity in our profession.“He was a true champion of a free press and holding the powerful to account.”
Former Sunday Times Insight editor Bruce Page, who worked at the paper with Sir Harold during the 1960s and 1970s, described him as “unique”.
The 83-year-old said: “All of his work was marked by his respect for – and understanding of – the reporter’s skills and duties.
“He has given us an essential standard which will in time prevail against the reckless fabrications of social media.”
Glen Harrison, a thalidomide survivor and deputy chairman of the campaign group Thalidomide UK, said Sir Harold Evans was “an outstanding human being for our cause”.
Another thalidomide campaigner, Guy Tweedy, from Harrogate, who last met up with his “dear friend” in July 2019, said: “He was an icon.
“The world’s greatest journalist and Harry was, and will always remain, a hero of Thalidomiders worldwide.”Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon offered her condolences to his family and said: “I always enjoyed talking to Harry and we had a lively conversation when he interviewed me at Women in the World in 2015.”
Oliver Dowden, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said: “The passing of Sir Harold Evans should remind us of the vital role the free press plays in our democracy.
“He was a giant of investigative journalism – uncovering great injustices and informing the public without fear or favour.”
Peter Barron, Northern Echo editor from 1999 to 2016, paid tribute to his predecessor, saying: “I was editor half a century later and the people of County Durham, North Yorkshire and Darlington still revered him.”
Mr Barron met Sir Harold two years ago for a BBC documentary, recalling: “He was 90 years old and quite frail but when he talked about the thalidomide campaign he still leaned forward and he still thumped the desk with anger that the Government and the drug companies had tried to brush this scandal under the carpet.”
Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan described Evans as a “witty, charming, fiercely intelligent man”.
He wrote on Twitter. “One of the all-time great newspaper editors.
“His stunning Thalidomide investigation when he ran the Sunday Times epitomised his crusading, campaigning, fearless style.”
Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger tweeted: “Harry Evans was the master craftsman of journalism. But he was so much more.
“He reminded us why journalism mattered and of the good that it could, and should, do.
“He was the editor we all wanted to be – brave, enlightened and tough. RIP” Professor Stuart Corbridge, vice-chancellor of Durham University, where Sir Harry studied, edited the student newspaper and which later gave him an honorary doctorate, said: “Our community is devastated to learn of the loss of alumnus Sir Harold Evans – a journalistic pioneer whose exceptional career spanned decades and whose legacy will influence generations to come.”