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Panel of journalists onstage at the Sir Harry Evans Summit

The inaugural Sir Harry Evans Global Summit in Investigative Journalism brought together acclaimed journalists, publishers and political commentators from around the world. Professor Tim Luckhurst, Principal of South College, was among those attending the event at London's Royal Institute of British Architects on Wednesday 10 May. Here he shares his reflections on the inspiring summit.

Sir Harry Evans, a working-class boy from a state school, first occupied an editor’s chair as an undergraduate at Durham University.

Studying politics and editing Palatinate launched a career in which, as editor of the Sunday Times between 1967 and 1981, Evans set an inspiring example.

Under his leadership, The Sunday Times spoke truth to power in the public interest and in the teeth of ferocious opposition.

It investigated, exposed and explained the Thalidomide scandal and changed the law on contempt of court.

The Sunday Times identified Kim Philby as a member of the Cambridge Five spy ring and proved the innocence of Timothy Evans (1924-1950, no relation), wrongfully convicted and hanged for the murder of his wife and daughter.  

The inaugural Sir Harry Evans Global Summit in Investigative Journalism revealed that his extraordinary power to inspire great journalism is undiminished.

Challenging injustice

A veritable galaxy of superb reporters and editors assembled in London to celebrate Sir Harry's legacy and meet Waylon Cunningham, the young Texan reporter who is Durham University's first Sir Harry Evans Global Fellow.

Mr Cunningham told the summit how growing up in a mobile home in small town Texas exposed him to corruption in government and the police.

The resulting injustice infuriated him. 

University showed him that journalism offers opportunities to turn the tables on those who abuse power and subject them to intense scrutiny.

The Sir Harry Evans Memorial Fund which finances Waylon Cunningham's fellowship has already given him time among the academic community at Durham University and an internship with the investigative team in Reuters' London newsroom.

The fund has received £5 million in donations, including a $2 million endowment from Thomson Reuters.   

Legends of global journalism

Among the stellar cast assembled at the summit to discuss the future of investigative journalism were Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.  

These legendary reporters, best known for the Watergate investigation that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, recalled that Sir Harry fought injustice with 'fists full of facts', and urged journalists to defend truth and to keep digging for the evidence that can dispel lies and promote truth.

In his tribute to Sir Harry, the historian Sir Simon Schama declared that journalists must have contempt for public lies and those who tell them.

The summit, convened in partnership between Reuters, Sir Harry's widow Tina Brown and Durham University, heard from journalists working to expose injustice around the world.

In her opening remarks, Professor Karen O'Brien, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, praised Sir Harry's persistence in the pursuit of truth and recalled his advice always to 'dig deeper'.

Professor O'Brien reminded the audience of Sir Harry's advice that 'The cleverest agents of the secret police state are inferior to the plodding reporter of democracy'.

She noted that every day, journalists put their lives on the line to report the truth.

They face arrest, exile and death as they work to speak to truth to power.

Mexican investigative reporter Anabel Hernandez, described how, following her father's murder, she set out to 'confront the drug bosses and the people who protect these monsters'.  

Hernandez described how a corrupt police officer working with the cartels tried to kill her.

She reminded her audience in London that cocaine users in the West are guilty of buying the cocaine that enriches the drug dealers and fuels their murderous violence.

Christo Grozev, lead investigator at Bellingcat, the open source citizen journalism project, explained how investigating a coup attempt in Montenegro taught his team how Russia's FSB secret service operates.

This helped Bellingcat to prove that Russia poisons opponents such as the former military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, and jailed opposition leader Alexi Navalny.

The photojournalists Lynsey Addario and Andriy Dubchak reminded us of the risks frontline journalists are taking to capture images in Ukraine.

Fearless reporting

Masih Alinejad, an exiled Iranian journalist and campaigner, described the Islamic regime's efforts to silence her and crush dissent.

Defiant under constant police protection, Alinejad sung a song about women and their fight for freedom in Iran.

She reminded us that in Iran, women may not sing in public without fear of arrest by the morality police.

Paul Caruana Galizia, whose mother Daphne, an investigative reporter, was murdered for her work to expose corruption in Malta, described the Iranian regime's efforts to kill and kidnap dissident journalists in the UK.

John Ryley, a Durham alumnus and for fifteen years Head of Sky News, interviewed a panel including Katharine Viner, Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian.

Viner explained the funding model that has returned her newspaper to profit.

She said Guardian reader's 'most want to pay for investigative journalism'.

The Guardian is setting up a new U.S. based investigative team.

Deborah Turness, CEO of BBC News, explained that the BBC is 'determined to bring investigative journalism into every day news'.

It will soon launch an online service called BBC Verify, a 'new digital truth test'.

Supporting investigative journalism

A panel moderated by Alessandra Galloni, Reuters Editor-in-Chief, described the reality that behind every great investigative story there must be an equally expert legal team.

Reflecting on the challenges that make such support essential, James Harding, former Editor of The Times and co-founder of Tortoise Media, advised that we 'should not mistake Harry Evans' geniality for pliability. He was tenacious'.

The summit brought together the world's finest investigative journalists.

They reminded us that determination to find stories that the powerful would prefer to hide is alive.

Sir Harry Evans's commitment to truth telling endures and inspires.

Together, through the Harry Evans Memorial Fellowship, Durham University, Tina Brown and Reuters will work to promote it.

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