In this edition of our Reporters on the Record series, we spoke with Theo Normanton of WatersTechnology. In our conversation with Theo, we learn about his journalism career path, his advice for those getting started in the field and more.
How did you get your start in journalism, and specifically financial journalism?
I started off in Moscow writing about Russian markets for an online business newspaper called bne IntelliNews. Because the publication was small and covered such a broad area, I wrote about all sorts of things, from car manufacturing to macroeconomics via food retail. I moved back to the UK when Russia invaded Ukraine and looked for a reporting job covering a narrower beat, hoping for the opportunity to drill down on one particular area. I spotted the WatersTechnology job and thought it seemed like the perfect fit. Data and technology in wholesale capital markets…that’s super narrow. Right? Right, guys?
Why do you find passion in journalism?
It’s the learning element that I enjoy the most. To write about something clearly in your own words, you need to really wrap your head around it first. That means a lot of research and a lot of grappling with words, which I love. I also think we’re very lucky that we get to have casual chats with people right at the top of their fields when we’re trying to come to grips with something new. You can get a glimpse of how an entire market has developed or a crisis unfolded straight from the horse’s mouth.
You recently graduated from the University of Cambridge with a degree in Russian Language and Literature. What made you choose this line of study?
Believe it or not, I got into Russian because I wanted to study French! Cambridge doesn’t offer undergrad courses with just one European language – you have to pick two. I had my heart set on French, so I decided to start a second language from scratch. I happened to be reading a Russian novel in translation, Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time, just as university application season was approaching. It’s an exhilarating read, brimming with horseback chases, kidnapped princesses and duels for love and honor, and set in the rugged splendor of the Caucasus Mountains. It all seemed very dashing. Needless to say, I was puzzled when I touched down in Russia for the first time on my year abroad to live in freezing Siberia for six months! Maybe it was Stockholm Syndrome, but I ended up specializing in Russian instead of French.
What is your advice to those looking to get started in journalism/financial journalism?
I would say that writing is a muscle, so start limbering up now! Start a blog, tweet (X?) about your hobby or pitch some articles to papers as a freelancer.
From your perspective, how can public relations (PR) practitioners best craft engaging pitches?
I’m not fussy about the format of a pitch. Ultimately, I think it’s the subject matter that does the heavy lifting! If the news is in the WatersTechnology wheelhouse, then it will catch my eye. If it’s relevant to something I’ve written about before, even better. Just no Comic Sans. There’s a line.
What do you do in your free time?
I sing countertenor (alto) in a few choirs. I’ve got a concert of Renaissance polyphony called “Basic Byrd” coming up with an early-music consort I sing with. I also love sailing, and I volunteer with a charity that takes groups of young people with no seafaring experience offshore sailing in the English Channel on a 20-meter training yacht. It’s mayhem, in the best possible sense of the word.