Jeffrey Todd is the Deputy Editor for "The National", one of the UAE's most popular English newspapers.
Jeffrey, can you tell us a bit about your background before you joined "The National"?
Prior to The National I worked at the Toronto Star covering the crime and destruction beat, including fires, car crashes, murders and kidnappings. It was a challenging time because I had to get information out of people who were reluctant to give it to me – and I had to do it fast!Tell us more about "The National" and how you ended up as a reporter (now deputy editor) on this major national newspaper.
My parents lived in the United Arab Emirates for three years from 2000 to 2003. When The National announced its launch, I was familiar with both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. And once I saw the scale of the project and all the great journalists involved, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity. You don’t help with the launch of the newspaper every day.
What is a typical day in the office like?
I work in Personal Finance, which is a weekly section appearing in the Saturday edition of The National. Unlike the daily, we have time to develop stories to their full potential and plan ahead more effectively. My day involves everything in the production cycle, such as commissioning stories, generating ideas, editing stories, working with reporters, determining the photos and overall design, and of course, writing. I also meet with business leaders in Abu Dhabi and Dubai on a regular basis to network and gain new ideas.
How does reporting in the UAE differ from Canada? Are there any particular challenges or restrictions?
Absolutely. The press, as we know it in the western world, is gradually evolving here. Issues such as politics and religion are often taboo, but it’s our job as journalists to push the barrier every so slightly. It’s a process, and overall, I believe The National is an example to the region in terms of journalism.
What were the main challenges you faced when you first arrived in the UAE? How did you overcome them?
You encounter all of the usual challenges when moving to a new country. Finding a place to live is very expensive in Abu Dhabi. I now live in Dubai, where rents are much cheaper. It also takes time for you to find your feet both personally and professionally. Only now, about three years in, I feel well established in terms of my network.
If you had to give some advice to our members to help them with expat life in the UAE what would it be?
Patience is extremely important when dealing with all issues here. You have to accept that life will not move at the pace or efficiently you are used to. Likewise, there are cultural differences you must accept and embrace. In the end, there are a great many advantages to life in the UAE. Traveling is one of them – I would encourage any expat here to expand their horizons.
Tell us more about your blog at onyourtodd.com!
For years, I sought a way to express myself beyond the newspaper. I’m not active on Facebook or Twitter, and onyourtodd.com is my personal interpretation of these mediums. The goal is to tell people a little bit about myself, but most importantly, I want to provoke thought through my blog. I blog about anything going on in my life. Sometimes, I’ll write about a particular interview or story I did that week. Or perhaps I’ll blog about my travels around the world or some quirky or topical issue of the day. Either way, I only write one blog a week, which appears on Saturday. I prefer writing just one, well-conceived blog, rather than bombarding the audience with my everyday musings.
What are your plans for the future?
Although it has been a great three years in the UAE, I’m going to be moving on from here in April. My next destination is currently unknown. But no matter where I end up, there will be an onyourtodd.com blog and a whole new set of experiences.
What do you do to relax?
My favorite activities are reading and writing. But I also love movies and running along the boardwalk where I live in Dubai Marina.