Monday, 22 March 2010

Patrick Lavelle: astonishing instinct for news

I am saddened and a little stunned to learn of the death of journalist Patrick Lavelle today. I remember Patrick turning up to an interview for a trainee's job at The Northern Echo in the mid-80s and being bowled over by his determination. He had a young family and a day job but had put himself through nightschool to get the qualifications. He came armed with cracking story ideas and an astonishing instinct for news. He was sporting an earring and one of the editors asked if he would remove it if he landed the job. Despite having worked long and hard to get this far, Patrick said the earring was special to him so he wouldn't. It was typical of his stubborn nature, his values and his refusal to be brow-beaten by anyone. It probably cost him the job, but it did his long-term career no harm at all. Years later I offered him the position of a reporter in Sunderland and asked him where the earring had gone. "I've learnt a lot in the last few years," he said. And he had. He became a tenacious reporter, winning the region's top award for investigative journalism three times. He was also a news-editor for the Sunderland Echo, a lecturer at Sunderland University and is probably most famous for his relentless pursuit of Wearside Jack, the hoax Yorkshire Ripper. He was also an author, a film maker, businessman and a politician. He founded the Sunderland First political group to challenge the failings of party politics, and planned to field candidates in this year's General Election. 
I last saw him on a photography course, still with that appetite to learn new skills, still challenging everything, still with a great love for journalism and for life. Patrick died of cancer this morning. He was 50. A great journalist; a great loss.

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