Steven Ladurantaye weighs up the differences between work in his native Toronto and his new job in Glasgow
I was sweltering in the heat of a classroom inside the fortress that serves as the headquarters of Vietnam’s state news broadcaster when my phone vibrated with a call from Scotland. I’d been flirting with STV News regarding a move for a few months.
Aside from my translator, none of the 20 journalists I was teaching (digital skills for broadcast journalists, since you ask) could speak English. I didn’t have to step out of the room when I fibbed and said, of course, it would be easy for me to visit Glasgow in a few days’ time for an interview for the head of news job.
Within 48 hours, I went from eating curious soup on hard sidewalks in Hanoi to eating curious pies on ripped leather seats in Glasgow. The travel time to the interview was 25 hours – the interview itself lasted 2.5 hours.
Seven hours later, I was home in Toronto, where I worked as a managing editor at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, describing the past few days with a sense of detached amusement/horror/fascination to my family.
My first exposure to Scotland was the same as that experienced by most Canadian children – a loud and gregarious Scottish uncle, whom I adored. He moved to Ottawa from Edinburgh in 1959, with £50 in his pocket, and built a life as a carpenter.
I can only imagine what he’d have to say if he were still alive to see me set out in the other direction.
The first time I set foot in Scotland was while I was working as the “global chair” for news at Twitter. I came to pitch to STV (along with other news organisations and political parties) about the benefits of using the platform to break news. They humoured me for 15 minutes and sent me on my way. No job offer that time around.
Fast forward to the summer of 2018, and there was an offer from STV News to uproot my life and move across the ocean to lead a newsroom in a country I’d rarely visited, full of stories I’d (mostly) never heard.
Obviously, we agreed immediately. No people’s vote needed here: the family referendum was unanimous. It took me only three weeks to deliver on my #Canadexit.
I keep telling anyone who asks that living in Scotland is only about 10% different to living in Canada. I keep stepping into traffic coming from the “wrong” side, and am constantly wondering why there are entire restaurants built around menus that contain nothing but baked potatoes. But there are many similarities – a fondness for bagpipes, tweed and independence polls, to name a few.
The professional challenge is more complicated. Laws are completely different in the two countries. This is especially true about how those charged with crimes can be treated before a verdict.
I built my newspaper career reporting the backstories of some of Canada’s most treacherous murderers, spending weeks and months filling pages of newsprint with every aspect of their lives – months before their trials even started. If I’d started my career in Scotland, all of my best work would have been illegal.
The British newsrooms I’ve worked in over the years have been fairly hierarchical. In contrast, my time as a newsroom manager in Canada has been spent with my sleeves rolled up alongside any manner of newsroom employees. That’s taken everyone here a bit of time to get used to. It freaks some people out when I sit at an empty desk for the day in order to be immersed in what’s going on in a different part of the newsroom.
The professional challenges have been daunting, and the cultural changes intimidating. Has it been worth it?
Steven Ladurantaye is head of news and current affairs, STV.