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As anchor for the BBC's key political news programme Newsnight Emily Maitlis has interviewed some of the most powerful and controversial figures on the political scene She plans each interview meticulously knowing what she wants to ask and where she wants it to go but as one of the most experienced journalists in her field she knows that no interview will ever go to plan Anything can throw it from the atmosphere in the room to her own feelings at the time to the mood of the subject Often she leaves the interview with an entirely different perception of the interviewee while sometimes it is all too sadly re confirmed Airhead explores just these moments All we normally see are the interviews but what were the conversations that preceded them or the shouting matches that ended them? From her interviews with US Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton and the last five British Prime Ministers to Hollywood film directors and powerful internet and entertainment moguls like Sheryl Sandberg and Simon Cowell Emily Maitlis explores how these powerful personalities came across In the process she throws an illuminating torch on them not just for what they represent but as individuals in their own right with all their flaws and charms


10 thoughts on “Airhead

  1. says:

    Well clearly Emily Maitliss presenter of the BBC's flagship Newsnight programme is no Airhead but the consummate professional interrogator and interviewer This is not really an autobiography and there is little in the way of any meaningful spotlight on her personal and private life Instead this is a commentary on the nature of the news business where so often the best laid plans go awry looking at our contemporary world with its political and social realities and the collection of often memorable interviews conducted by the ambitious Maitlis Written in an easy reading style there are an array of anecdotes the back stories soundbites and compromises integral to TV news and interviews giving us a well observed and insightful glimpse coverage into the behind scenes world that is Maitlis's everyday life The interviews cover leading global figures from politics such as US presidents the arts like Emma Thompson and religion like the Dalai Lamai alongside a raft of other celebritiesI can't say that I thought every interview she has conducted has been a success but there have been some excellent ones She is confident hard nosed skilful and effective often witty and humorous and even compassionate on occasion This is a light well written and entertaining read that throws some light on the complex perceptive and intelligent personality that is Emily Maitless with brief coverage of her personal troubles with a stalker Maitlis has since added an additional bow to her stellar career with her recent groundbreaking interview with Prince Andrew that made headlines around the world I rcommend this to all those who are interested in the world of TV news portrayed through the life of one of the leading talented BBC news presenters Many thanks to Penguin Michael Joseph


  2. says:

    Maitlis mascara and mastering the art of the tv interview There’s no getting away from it Emily Maitlis is ordinately ‘well turned out’ She’s immaculately groomed right down to her no doubt flawless cuticles It’s not just a key component of the Maitlis signature style it’s an essential part of who La Maitlis is and her appearance is simply one further iteration of her meticulous preparation for an interview This book is not an intimate self portrait uite the opposite It’s an account of her most recent memorable interviews how they were set up the points in the interview that struck her as important and her feelings as the interview was concluded was it a job well done did her viewers gain any insights did she land the soccer punch that makes for great telly? Interestingly she talks about a kind of tv time warp how everything is distilled into ‘one snapshot one soundbite Then the new cycle moves on’ Eually fascinating is her take on interviews for which she’s had the time to prepare thoroughly versus the stomach churning excitement she feels when she goes for it and grabs an unexpected opening that has presented itself Her fly by the seat of your pants interviews are bordering on legendary her nabbing of Anthony Scaramucci on the White House lawn is surely unforgettable and – boy – was that ever a short window of opportunity As for the crouch in the lift to apply the mascara moments which female amongst us who cares about her appearance has not been seized by a similar moment of blind panic? Will I look alright???It’s all done in bite size eminently readable chunks She is a far engaging writer than I had expected her to be I wonder why I’d thought her rather too cool a customer – could this be the impeccable grooming? But in fact she shows warmth and empathy in abundance Of course she’s as hard nosed as it comes when she needs to be relentlessly pursuing an interviewee she wants at the risk of incurring their wrath And whilst there wasn’t uite as much of the personal side in Airhead as we might like there to be that's not what she wanted this book to be about The woman we see here is a consummate professional who can only be admired And yes liked I wish her and her family well


  3. says:

    I’m really disappointed in this She makes so many important points about journalistic ethics but the format based around specific interviews never allows a sustained analysis to develop There is a great book in here which didn’t get written


  4. says:

    Whistle stop tour of some of the memorable moments in recent years that has moulded and brought Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis to TV news and current affairs watchers attentionElections Donald Trump and Brexit have brought such presenters to the forefront despite the frustration that political interviews and programmes drone on about stuff we find altogether boring Emily Maitlis is a driven journalist in a male dominated world who beyond her natural good looks has succeeded at the BBC and fronted Newsnight with a degree of grace and an ear for a storyPost Paxman she has come to our attention but she has been around for longer than than we may think Airhead The Imperfect Art of Making News is Maitlis at her best describing what in her professional life she loves most Getting that killer interview remembering to ask the right uestions and delivering a piece to camera that provides clarity and context Here in a book format she is able to unpack this process and explain her fears rationale and motivations to be the best she can and tell those storiesI found the book a compelling read; the many interviewees all have something to say and her role is secondary to the whole She is honest fearless reflective and empathetic in this process and that comes across in her writing and recalling these meetings How they came about the issues at that time what needed to be addressed and why sometimes things don’t go to planIt is her dry humour that also gets conveyed and I get no sense of a woman who feels she is the leading star or the main player What translates is her sense of teamwork a shared vision and focus coupled with the support and encouragement she receives and reciprocates to her Newsnight buddiesEmily’s humility also shines through Although not a perfectionist she worries if she missed something out or came over too forcibly She cares about those she meets and isn’t just out for a good sound biteShe comprehends the agenda of the politician or celebrity and why it isn’t always possible to elicit the answers she desires But she still beats herself up if she feels she has been overtaxing or too soft in her uestioningAbove all she is an intelligent journalist a hard working individual and the consummate professional Her book is refreshing and illuminating and allows insight into her work and because of her openness perhaps reveals far than she’d say if someone else interviewed herI hope Airhead is widely read it isn’t a dry political read but a commentary on our busy modern lives It is a book that will appeal to a broad section of readers since it is well written engaging and filled with wit emotion and energy However the uality that stands out most is the author’s integrity


  5. says:

    I thought this might be of a memoir but we only get tiny glimpses into Maitlis's own life she mentions in passing that she was born in Sheffield that a relative escaped from Nazi Germany and a chapter is dedicated to her experience of being stalked for the past 20 years Airhead is of a collection of snippets from previous interviews Maitlis has done throughout her career While each chapter is not all that long it really feels like the reader gets an insight into each individual which is not widely known by those who have not had the opportunity to interview them Some of the memorable chapters featured the Dalai Lama Piers Morgan Emma Thompson David Attenborough Anthony Scaramucci and Donald Trump Recommended Thank you Netgalley and Penguin UK Michael Joseph for the advance copy which was provided in exchange for an honest review


  6. says:

    Stunning collection of vignettes which in a great way is preferable to a full blown memoir I feel some parts could go deeper but that being said it's understandably of a journalistic account


  7. says:

    I bought this because I liked Maitlis on Newsnight skewering politicians with her sharp intellect and curious mind and think this book is rubbish precisely because she seems to have been told to tone down the uick thinking and opt instead for nauseating accounts of her crush on Simon Cowell It's a massive let down and I really wish she'd not bothered trying to gloss over her intelligence lest it was too much for the alpha males of the BBC to cope with and just written a book from her brain rather than this terrible hash of very smart woman meets Bella It's garbage


  8. says:

    Anecdotal account of some of the author's memorable interviews Provides an insight on the haphazard nature of reporting and the simplification that TV reuires imposes Mostly forgettable


  9. says:

    I enjoyed Airhead It’s of a collection of vignettes that a full memoir which means that I tended to dip in and out of it but a few sections at a time make very good reading Each section describes a memorable interview or event which Emily Maitlis reported on with background detail and some personal reflectionsThis isn’t really an autobiography or even a memoir We get personal details of Maitlis’s life and career only as they impinge on the story she’s covering at the time – like the Grenfell Tower disaster because she lives close by and spent the day working as a volunteer there – and I could have done with a little background Nonetheless she is uite self critical and examines her motives and actions in some depth at times; she gives a very good flavour of some of the ethical dilemmas faced by reporters and doesn’t always conclude that she did the right thing I found this aspect of the book very interesting and rather admirableThe book is well structured and prose is very readable although perhaps inevitably there is sometimes a little too much journalistic punchiness for my taste You know the sort of thing talking of Hungary “The eyes of the world are once upon it But not in the way of old” That trick of a full stop and new verbless sentence rather than a comma can get a bit wearing after a while She doesn’t overdo it too badly but it did grate on me a bitMaitlis emerges from the book as thoughtful intelligent and perceptive with a surprisingly deep vein of self doubt – which probably contributes to those ualities There are some amusing moments too which always helps and I can recommend this as a readable interesting and insightful bookMy thanks to Penguin UK for an ARC via NetGalley


  10. says:

    Overall this was disappointing TBF I didn't really know anything about Emily Maitliss before reading this but I guess I assumed that since she's a journalist covering stories of national and international interest and extremely serious cases this book would be analytical and informativeI was wrongInstead it touches very lightly on a number of high profile interviews and TV spots Maitliss has been involved in Many powerful men have their words repeated by her without any response or rebuttal whilst she breathlessly fangirls about their charisma Many minor criticisms of Maitliss' reporting techniue are dismissed to the background of horrific tragedies which are mainly barely commented on Many very boring texts and tweets are repeated verbatim to no obvious endNot only is this book dull but on occasion the lack of contrasting viewpoints and complete absence of even a hint of debate is ignorant and even downright dangerous Most egregious is possibly the section when Maitliss draws comparison between Rachel Dolezal's actions and the experience of transgender people At one point she even includes a tweet from an anti transgender troll which she apparently takes at face value Then having skipped lightly over this painful and difficult issue she moves on without offering any hint of the opposing view Or indeed any indications that she understands the issue at all Similarly contentious is the section when she jumps from covering the horrific experiences of migrants crossing Europe to effectively blaming them for Brexit At best clumsy At worst inflammatory A nadir is reached when Maitliss manages to fawn over Prince Andrew even whilst uestioning him on his membership of a paedophile ring Truly horrifying stuffA significant amount of the book is just fluff asking Simon Cowell about his ex girlfriends or Jon Stewart about his father issues A fair amount of it is self congratulation for the amazing value and impact of her interviews And some of it is personally offensive to me discussing what good friends she is with Piers Morgan or inexplicably describing Jeremy Clarkson as profoundly anti establishmentI was hoping for light essays with a sociopolitical angle informed by the many years an intelligent woman has spent at the heart of news journalism What I got was a somewhat self serving memoir by a woman living in a comfortable upper middle class media bubble who is unaware of the extent to which she neglects to uestion the establishment At times I was almost embarrassed for her as she basically giggles and twirls her hair whilst interviewing Bill Clinton and Jon Stewart or concludes a section on Grenfell by discussing how hard television journalism is But often I felt let down by her an intelligent educated woman in a position of power who seems to be wasting chance after chance to make a difference