Like many journalists, S&P Global Market Intelligence reporter Declan Harty doesn’t know exactly when he decided to pursue journalism, but what’s clear is he hasn’t regretted the choice once. In our conversation with Declan, we learned about how he’s been dealing with reporting during a pandemic, the professor behind his passion for financial journalism and the role social media plays in his reporting.
If you don’t want to miss the next interview, sign up for our daily newsletter, the Forefront Fintech Digest.
What was your first job?
My first official job was as a telemarketer in college, which I guess was good training for becoming a journalist. I cold called alumni and asked for donations to my alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. That lasted a whole four months before I took on an editing position with my college paper.
When and why did you decide to become a journalist? Why did you choose to work in financial journalism?
“When” is a great question, and I’m not sure I necessarily even know the answer. I worked on my high school paper as the sports editor, though I don’t think anything I wrote could actually be considered journalism. It must have been at some point when I was in my sophomore year of college. I originally planned to become a teacher after college, but I ended up transferring to Illinois after my freshman year, began working at the student paper, The Daily Illini, and soon enough was changing my major. I think the “why” was a combination of a few different clichés: The energy of a newsroom, no day is like any other and the ability to tell peoples’ stories. At the end of the day, I just don’t think there are many opportunities in the world like being a reporter.
Alecia Swasy, a professor of mine who used to work for the Wall Street Journal and is now a professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, was really a driving force behind my entry into financial journalism. She spent much of my senior year of college walking me through the fundamentals of business reporting, which naturally just made me that much more interested in it. Covering the financial industry came by luck more than anything, I think. My family has a background in the trading industry. My grandfather traded soybeans at the Chicago Board of Trade, several of my uncles and cousins worked on the CME floor in its heyday, and my dad still does to this day. But I hadn’t given much thought to writing about finance — let alone exchanges, trading companies and the markets — when I graduated from college. Surely enough, though, I interned with Bloomberg News in 2016 and was placed on the market structure team where I was quickly introduced to this incredibly complex and fascinating corner of the financial industry.
How has COVID19 affected your reporting? Are you still seeing as much of an impact on your day to day recently?
Reporting in the middle of a pandemic has been an incredibly fascinating, albeit sometimes mundane, experience. The storylines that have come out of COVID-19 — circuit breakers, market volatility, work from home — have all been some of the most interesting developments that I’ve ever covered. And with sources, press contacts and my colleagues working from home, it does seem like people are being proactive about responding to emails and calls, which as a reporter is much appreciated. That said, I’m now in my sixth month of working from home and am getting a little bit tired of looking at my neighbor’s roof outside the window above my desk every day. We do have a six-month-old daughter so I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with her that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Thankfully, S&P has a really generous parental leave policy too.
What is your favorite part of journalism? What would you change?
It’s hard to pin it down on just one part that I could label as my favorite. From a reporting perspective, there’s nothing at the end of the day quite like a groundbreaking interview. I personally love writing as well, or at least finishing the writing of a story. The process leading up to that is normally messy and beyond frustrating. At S&P, I do have a fair amount of flexibility with what I cover, too, so that has been a great part of my job.
How big of a role does social media play in your reporting? How about in your interactions with communications professionals?
Social media is pretty critical in my reporting. I’ll admit that I’m far from the most interesting follow on the financial beat. But I do rely on Twitter to make sure that I’m keeping up with the conversations around my beats, whether they be about breaking news from another outlet, a new lawsuit or some SEC proposal. I’ve also found both Twitter and LinkedIn to be great resources for connecting with different people in the financial industry that I maybe haven’t met yet. Having been based out of Charlottesville, Virginia before relocating to Chicago, I found that social media was a great way to humanize some of the people that I’ve only ever interacted with over the phone or by email. In some ways, I think it brings everyone down to the same level.
What makes a good pitch?
For me, a good pitch usually comes from someone who I have a relationship with or someone who clearly is looking to establish one. That and the pitch actually being about what I cover. Every day, my inbox is flooded with pitches about beauty products, new restaurants and anything else you could imagine. It’s very obvious when someone has done their homework about my own reporting when making a pitch versus when my name is just plugged into an email.
Other than S&P Global Market Intelligence, what publications do you read?
Oh gosh. The list of financial-focused publications is a bit long: Bloomberg, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, Reuters. I also try to diversify what I’m reading over the weekends. I subscribe to a few different newsletters focused on quality long-form journalism such as The Sunday Long Read by Don Van Natta Jr. and Jacob Feldman.
Who would be your dream interview?
There are so many people I would love to sit down with at some point or another. But I’ll go with one that I can’t actually interview: Henry Varnum Poor. I’m always fascinated to know how early pioneers in certain fields feel about the evolution of their businesses over time, so I’m going 100+ years back into the history books. We’d have a lot to cover.