Sandra Leville: Senior Crime-writer for The Guardian

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Following the recent events of the Leveson Inquiry, aspiring Journalists filled up the lecture hall to experience a talk from Sandra Leville, a senior crime-writer for The Guardian, who recently spoke at the Leveson Inquiry on the relationship between journalists and the police.

Sandra Leville studied English at Exeter University before taking a post graduate in newspaper journalism at Cardiff University and from then she started her journalistic career in local news. She advised the budding journalists how starting off in local newspapers is the best way to start, “You want to cut your teeth on something small and make mistakes on something small,” said Leville. She expressed how starting off small will give you the confidence, the skills and experience to go on bigger and better things, she said: “You can walk in with confidence and a vast array of cuttings and you’ll feel that you’re ready to do that then, rather than now which might be a bit too soon.”

Leville worked at several local news papers before moving to London and being employed in the Standard for four years, then moving up to The Daily Telegraph for six years where she covered some of the major conflicts of the time; Kosovo, Afghanistan and the Iraq war. Seven years ago, Leville started working for The Guardian and still does as a seniour journalist, latterly specialising in crime. The Guardian is where she covered many major stories including the Harold Shipman murder investigation and criminal trial, the fatal stabbing of the 10 year old Damilola Taylor, the trial of Robert Napper for the killing of Rachel Nickell and many others.

“I think my job is to be the people’s eyes and ears to hold the authorities in account, to give people voices who don’t have voices normally,” explained Laville. She believes that journalism is a honourable profession even though there has been a lot of public dispute on bad publicity for journalism. “Some people might think we’re the scum of the earth,” said Laville.

“It’s an interesting time in journalism at the moment,” said Leville. She explained this in relation to the upcoming result of the Leveson Inquiry, the downturn of newspaper circulation contrasted with a huge energy moving into digital journalism and the social media explosion and how all this is changing journalism.

Laville encouraged the students and said: “I think you guys more than ever are gonna have to focus on ethics when people and employees are going to be wanting to hear about your integrity, your ethics.” She continues by telling the students how lucky they are that they’re young and not tainted by bad practices, “because it is a positive, good thing to do in society”.

Tips and Tricks

Laville, like any other journalist has her own tools in becoming successful, she chose to share them with the aspiring journalists, and told them that these tools is what she keeps in her head to try to keep herself on the right line and she tries to nudge herself with these every day.

The first one is the most basic – pick up the phone. “You will as I am be percieged by information and the most important thing, the thing I do everyday is pick up the phne and talk to people.” She explains how emailing or tweeting a person is definitely not the same thing and people have forgotten how important it is because people can still write stories without talking to anyone. Laville finishes this tip with: “I will just say to you, make a direct approach to whoever.”

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