- Paperback: 602 pages
- Publisher: Open Road Media (September 20, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781453258361
- ISBN-13: 978-1453258361
- ASIN: 1453258361
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,404,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Good Times, Bad Times: The Explosive Inside Story of Rupert Murdoch Paperback – September 20, 2011
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“Evans remains one of the great figures of modern journalism.” —The Economist
“Entertaining and important. . . . The book has caused a stir.” —The New York Times
“Extraordinarily well written. A vivid portrait of what it is like to be the editor of a great daily newspaper.”—Chicago Tribune
“If there is one living editor who has carried the fight against the forces of darkness with [the] most vigour, persistence and brilliance, that man is unquestionably Harold Evans.” —The Independent
“Brilliantly written, sustaining a sweeping power of narrative and packed with pungently witty character sketches that will remind Hazlitt. . . . Compulsory reading for all who wish to estimate the strength of foundations of British democracy.” —The Times Literary Supplement
“Much has been written about Rupert Murdoch by journalists peering in from the outside . . . Good Times, Bad Times is by a journalist who was engaged with Murdoch in a struggle to the death.” —The New Republic
“Fascinating . . . both an uncommonly entertaining tale and an important account of the tribulations of the press in an age of international media barons.” —Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
“It’s a compelling book, a wonderful ‘read’. It is often very funny. It is also about journalism and good stories and editing. . . . One can think of a long list of prime ministers who have done less for publishing liberties in this country than Harold Evans did.” —London Review of Books
“Fascinating.” —Simon Jenkins
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Top customer reviews
In saying all the above, I mean both to pay tribute to Harold Evans and to put in context the criticisms I have of this book - which contains descriptions of his triumphs as Sunday Times editor and his difficulties as Times Editor under Rupert Murdoch. The book has three sections - the first describes some of the episodes which made Evan's Sunday Times great - the investigative reports from the Insight team and others, of malicious cover-ups of poor quality in the pharmaceutical industry (Thalidomide) and the aircraft industry (McDonnell Douglas); the publication of the Crossman Diaries - laying bare the rivalries and mutual disdain of the members of the British Labour Cabinet. Having established his credentials as a `vertical' journalist - Evan's term, which he describes as `seeking to get to the bottom of things' - and lauding his proprietors, the Thomson's, for allowing him to do so, the second part of the book deals with the advent of Mr. Murdoch as owner. The machinations of Murdoch to gain control are fascinating, the Thomson's were drained both financially and personally by the losses induced by union activity, and they secretly dealt with Murdoch while other offers were being pursued by the editors. Murdoch eventually won ownership of both the Times and Sunday Times, having given guarantees of editorial freedom to a board of `national directors', guarantees, which if breached, were theoretically amenable to criminal legal sanction. As part of the change of ownership Evans was offered the editorship of the Times - one of the free worlds most revered titles. In his description of the paper, Evans reveals an almost po-faced reverence for the place of the Times as part of the British Establishment - he sees it as the paper of record, upholding fair, non-partisan and accurate journalism which British society has come to expect. One feature of this is his constant enumeration of people's educational background, almost every colleague is named and then his/her school and university are listed - for example Joe Smith, Winchester, Oxford, to establish both social class and academic (perhaps intellectual) credentials. He documents the `four pillars' of the Times as its reporting of Parliament, its legal coverage, its obituaries and its leader columns. Oh dear! Stolid stuff, from the fearless, vertical, investigative editor. Nonetheless this section contains fascinating accounts of Evan's new broom editorship coming to terms with the rather lazy attitude to scoops and freshness of news which, by implication, criticise his predecessor as editor (William Rees Mogg); and show that change was indeed necessary at the institution. Looming behind this story is Murdoch's general management style - haphazard interventions, secretive finances and lack of budgeting and planning. From the text it seems to me that Murdoch was overstretched with transatlantic acquisitions, rather than covertly scheming to undermine Evans.
The third section of the book reads a bit like Macbeth - Murdoch plots to renege on his guarantees and to impose his will on the editors. The text here is well paced and descriptive - the tension plays havoc with everyone, save perhaps Murdoch, Evan's second-in-command betrays him, various functionaries within the paper either resign or become lackeys, the `national directors' turn out to be paper tigers (this is too good a pun to delete), the Thatcher government sides with Murdoch and fails to taken any action as the guarantees are broken, piecemeal. The thrust of this section reveals Evans as tragic hero, valiantly striving to uphold freedom of speech against the devious, double-dealing Murdoch, whose lackeys live in fear of his disapproval. However, by the time I got to this section I had, sadly, lost a lot of respect for Evan's impartiality, his defence of press freedom seemed to me to cloak an innate inability to face change in the form of new commercial and political realities. This was reaffirmed in my mind when, on the day that Evan's agreed to reign, who should phone to commiserate but Henry Kissinger!
In the end I think the book is important in that it is illustrates that one important feature of change and leadership is that they are neither comfortable nor, initially at least, popular. Evans, though personally engaging - and I'm sure mercurial and demanding - came to represent a set of fading political beliefs. The change occurring at the times these events described were taking place saw the emergence of economic individualism unleashed by lowering taxation rates; the antipathy to organised labour and active military competition with the Soviet Union. The fading, indeed failing, Social Democratic consensus was overthrown by a more individualistic and competitive set of beliefs and the process was quite ugly, given the sincerely held beliefs on both sides. I believe Evans and Murdoch were representative shadows of this change. The rest of the story - Evans attractive forthrightness, Murdoch's furtive acquisitiveness - while the human interest focus of the story, are ultimately a side show.
This book is well told, highly dramatic and engaging, however seen at a remove of twenty five years it is a lament from someone who worked hard to become part of an establishment whose day was done.