Univ Dates: 2007-2011
Degree: BA Classics
Degree Level: Undergraduate
Occupation: Senior Political Correspondent, The Times
Biography: Lucy is Senior Political Correspondent at The Times and winner of the 2013 Anthony Howard Award for Young Journalists. She is the author of Emily Wilding Davison: The Suffragette Who Died For Women’s Rights. At Univ she received a Roger Short Travel Scholarship in 2009. She was a Univ Choral Exhibitioner.
Any particular influences at Univ?
Certainly there were several people who I think really made my time special; one of them, Bill Allan, was just a very inspirational tutor, and he stood no nonsense. Having just done my A levels, I felt my minding expanding fast in the first two terms – that leap is much bigger at the start of the Univ experience. Bill was just an amazing tutor, the way he helped you find your own ideas and thoughts around things without telling you directly. Several other tutors I remember too. Lesley Brown was just so fantastically strident and I really admired her as she had come up through the academic establishment at a time that was much more difficult for women.
Did you know what you wanted to do after your time at Univ?
No, not at all actually. I wasn’t even involved particularly with journalism whilst I was an undergraduate, it was something that came to me while I was doing my finals. I thought it was something that I really wanted to get into, specifically news.
University is a really good time to develop your personal interests and not just to focus too much on what you might do vocationally afterwards. I was on the ski team, I was in the choir, and doing lots of things. I was also very interested in philosophy and turned my degree a little more in that direction and was involved in ethics and war studies programmes – that made me think that I might want to go into foreign correspondence work.
Younger people in the school system might want to go into journalism or media or more nebulous things and not the usual professions and it’s important to show that they can still certainly get there by coming to Univ.
So, you are a journalist now – tell us about the path there from Univ.
Getting into journalism is a very opaque process – everyone has a different story about how they arrived. Really you just have to keep plugging away until you get a break; I finally realised you become a journalist by saying you’re a journalist.
Eventually I got a job with The Sunday Times and was trained up there and tried my hand a various things – some feature writing, magazine pieces, business, news… It was news that really drove me; the adrenaline and I’m a very curious person – just getting a scoop and being the first to pin a story down and get it out there is such a rush.
Almost out of the blue I saw an advert for a year-long fellowship, the Anthony Howard Award for Young Journalists; usually the lobby system in the UK is a sort of cartel and you have to be in a newspaper or newsroom to get one of the coveted passes to allow you to work in the Commons and have access into the Division Lobbies where MPs vote. This scheme allowed you to spend a year as a lobby correspondent and, to my delight, I was awarded it. It was a bit of a voyage of discovery. I spend four months at The Observer, four months at The New Statesmen and four months at The Times and off the back of that I got a job at The Times, where I’ve now been for several years.
How did Univ shape you?
My job now involves cutting through a lot of spin, people are trying to sell you different narratives, trying to obfuscate, omit, bend the truth and you have to use your intellect to pick out what’s true. Univ, I think, gives you the independence of judgement and the confidence in developing your own ideas and standing your ground when you have made a judgement. The tutorial system, sitting there and having to come up with ideas and fight to develop them through dialogue with tutors, is crucial to developing critical judgement.