Evans Teaches Art and Science of Journalism
Goode, Stephen, Insight on the News
M. Stanton Evans and the National Journalism Center continue to train aspiring reporters to recognize the substance of a story the better to inform their readers.
Stan Evans is a longtime movement conservative whose commitment to that cause goes back to the 1950s. For many years he was editorial-page editor and editor at the Indianapolis News and then a nationally syndicated columnist. Since 1977, he's served as director of the National Journalism Center in Washington, where he has supervised the rigorous training of hundreds of journalists who now hold jobs throughout the country in print journalism and on radio and television. Several are on the staff of Insight magazine.
A man admired for his wit, Evans also is a scholar. In 1994, he published one of the best works ever done on the role of religion in the formation of this country, The Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics and the American Tradition -- a book that marinated and grew in the back of his mind for three decades before he sat down to write it, Evans tells Insight. Having thought it through, the drafting took him just a year.
Evans is working on a book about Joe McCarthy, the late Wisconsin Republican senator, for which Evans collected 50,000 FBI documents' ("a real payload of stuff," he says) and a lot of other material. "The book is certain to outrage everyone," Evans claims.
Insight: Years ago, you developed what came to be known as "Evans' law," which says that, "Whenever `one of our people' reaches a position of power where he can do us some good, he ceases to be `one of our people.'" This is a complaint that when conservatives win high office they turn away from conservative principles. Does Evans' law apply to George W. Bush?
M. Stanton Evans: I don't think it's applicable in George W. Bush's case. To be utterly candid, I never considered him to be one of our people. Not that I have any hostility toward him, but considering those who lined up early for him, George W. was a considerably different kettle of fish, say, from Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan, both of whom were much more definitely conservative-movement leaders. Both were point men for the conservative cause over and against the East Coast establishment and Rockefeller-type liberal Republicanism.
Early on, I think people with big clout decided that Governor Bush was going to be the nominee. Conservatives who didn't know a lot about him were so tired of their eight years in the wilderness that they said, "Let's go with him," and so most everybody got behind him from the outset.
He was something of an unknown quantity at that point, Rorschach-like, so in a sense he's the converse of my law in that he was not perceived as being one of our people, but he's now performing much more like one than I personally would have anticipated. And some people have said, with some justice, that he's in many ways a lot more like Ronald Reagan than he is like his own father. But the jury's still out.
Insight: You sound pleased with this unexpected development.
MSE: I had a growing enthusiasm for now-president Bush when he was a candidate. But the thing that really tipped me in his favor was when I learned that, if he were elected, Alec Baldwin would leave the country.
I said at the time that got my vote right there [laughs]. But Baldwin has backslid on that promise; he's still here. I have suggested that we all take out full-page ads in the New York Times, signed by hundreds of academics, urging Baldwin to fulfill the promise he made during the campaign. And only if that doesn't work should he be deported.
Insight: What made you think that there was a need in America for the National Journalism Center?
MSE: Just observing what's out there [laughs]. I'm an old newspaper editor, and I for 16 years worked in Indiana as editor of the Indianapolis News. I ran the editorial page and had plenty of time to observe what was happening. …