Airhead

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Member Reviews

Interesting series of snapshots of interviews and a glimpse into how a tv news show is made. I'm not a regular viewer of Newsnight so most of the stories within the book were new to me. Enjoyed the author's writing style, and particularly enjoyed the Alan Patridge tale. Also interesting to see a different side to some our 'famous faces' -Piers Morgan and Gordon Ramsey being most memorable.
Great book to dip in and out of. Enjoyed!
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It's a fun read, but doesn't have much substance to it - I was hoping for thrilling revelations, but it's too frothy for that.
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Confession I full expected NOT to like Emily Matliss. But actually I bl**dy love her. Her writing is sharp, funny and powers across the pages. She is clearly excellent at her job because it is never about her - always about the story. In retelling some of her famous encounters and recalling those she has interviewed she approaches her profession and the world she occupies humbly and honestly. It's the richness of this detail that gives the reader a real inside track on a working life many of us are clueless about.My only irk was that some of the self-deprecation wasn’t necessary. Emily you are brilliant at your job and you are a fabulous writer – own it! I hope she writes more because this was brilliant.
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*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don't often watch the news but the times I have Emily Maitlis has struck me as a brilliant broadcaster. This was particularly true in the recent Prime Ministerial candidate debate where she dealt with the five candidates with honest and insistent questioning.

Telling a series of stories about different events and news stories that Emily has covered over the years, this book is at times deeply saddening and at others hilarious. The author writes with candidness and honesty about the interviews she has conducted and the world events that she has had to attend. Although the stories themselves do not necessarily link together in any way, the overarching theme of the book, as the subtitle suggests, is to show how the news is made and the mistakes that are inevitably made along the way.

I found myself reading this at every opportunity I had; the differing stories kept my interest throughout and I enjoyed seeing Emily's behind-the-scenes take on some of her most memorable interviews. 

Overall I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in journalism or politics, whether you are familiar with Emily Maitlis or not. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would read anything else that this author publishes.
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Great insight into the world of TV news

Emily Maitlis gives you the low down on life on the road interviewing politicians as well as the odd Chippendale...

It's an easy read with some great anecdotes, particularly the Bill Clinton gift shop one and gives you some great insight into the pressures and processes that go into making TV interviews despite the sometime chaos that is happening off camera.

You even get the background on how she starred in the latest Alan Partridge show too!
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This wasn't my normal interest but thought I'd have a change and glad I did. It's more behind the scenes insight than autobiography but well worth a read and Maitlis is obviously a good writer (makes a change from celebrities having 'ghost writers'). I hope she writes an actual autobiography as well at some stage. The only thing I'd add is that I think this would probably sell best in the Christmas market but Maitlis is high enough profile to be popular any time. Recommended. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK/Michael Joseph for ARC.
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I enjoyed Airhead.  It’s more 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 reflections.

This 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 more background.  Nonetheless, she is quite 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 admirable.

The 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 more 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 bit.

Maitlis emerges from the book as thoughtful, intelligent and perceptive with a surprisingly deep vein of self-doubt – which probably contributes to those qualities.  There are some amusing moments, too, which always helps and I can recommend this as a readable, interesting and insightful book.

(My thanks to Penguin UK for an ARC via NetGalley.)
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Whistle stop tour of some of the more memorable moments in recent years that has moulded and brought Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis to TV news and current affairs watchers attention.
Elections, Donald Trump and Brexit have brought such presenters more 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 story.
Post 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 questions 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 stories.
I 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 plan.
It 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 buddies.
Emily’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 bite.
She 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 questioning.
Above all she is an intelligent journalist, a hard-working individual and the consummate professional. 
Her book is refreshing and illuminating and allows more insight into her work and because of her openness perhaps reveals far more than she’d say if someone else interviewed her.
I 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 quality that stands out most is the author’s integrity.
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Emily Maitlis has been a journalist and broadcaster for over twenty years and is currently the lead presenter of the BBC’s Newsnight programme. Her first book ‘Airhead’ is a collection of her most significant and memorable TV interviews, with an explanation of the planning and thinking behind each one, as well as the build-up and aftermath off camera. Sometimes the interviews are carefully planned and structured in order to tease out the most telling response from the person being grilled. More often than not, though, the most effective and surprising ones are brought about by happy accident such as her encounter with Anthony Scaramucci. Coupled with the constant sense of unpredictability associated with live television (which is more cock-up than conspiracy, according to Maitlis), the subtitle “the imperfect art of making news” is certainly fitting.

The interviewees themselves are varied – a good balance between high-profile politicians and other well-known figures ranging from David Attenborough to Russell Brand to Sheryl Sandberg. The interviews are very much focused on events from the last three years or so – Brexit, Trump and the Me Too movement all feature prominently. The book gives her the space to analyse the circumstances of how each interview came about and reflect on what went well and what didn’t  - she has a tendency to berate herself for mistakes, doubts and regrets over the questions she did or didn’t ask. She also describes being arrested in Cuba, volunteering to help the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire and having a cameo role in the latest Alan Partridge series. 

Although ‘Airhead’ isn’t a memoir, there are occasional glimpses of her personal life in between the chaos of regular transatlantic travel and a 24-hour news cycle. There is a chapter towards the end in which Maitlis addresses being stalked for over two decades by a man she met at university. It’s a topic which she initially didn’t want to include in the book as it was too personal, but she reflects thoughtfully on how being the subject of a news story instead of reporting on it has been a poignant experience for her professionally.

This is a really engaging book. Maitlis is very aware of the power of striking the right tone in her work and she definitely succeeds here. The style is smart, chatty and very self-deprecating and she gives great insight into how television works behind-the-scenes and what happens when the camera stops rolling.
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Great read, every story is so interesting! Would have loved even more detail on some but perhaps it wasn’t possible... highly recommended for those interested in behind the scenes news and some insight into public figures
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This was a really interesting read which takes you into the world of media and journalism.  I didn't realise that the author had covered so much in her career.  Recommended read even if this isn't your usual thing.
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No airhead she, far more of a brainbox. I wonder why Emily Maitlis chose this self-depratory title for what is a very decent and well written book.

Far more a series of unlinked anecdotes and stories behind the stories, she takes behind the scenes and in side her head before some of her most famous interviews of the likes of May, Trump and Clinton.

Illuminating stuff it is too but she tells us almost nothing about herself, her background and how she rose to her current position. That is a real shame as I would suggest that she has a fascinating tale to tell. Maybe next time but in the meantime this will have to do and I learned much of the news behind the news but still felt slightly shortchanged.
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Emily Maitlis has a really uplifting writing style which makes this book a joy to read. Coupled with a sense of self-doubt and a humour that is sometimes wry and which she occasionally turns on herself, this makes Airhead a delightful and fast read.

This is not an autobiography; rather it is a series of anecdotes and memorable interviews Maitlis has conducted.  She wanted, she says, to show that more often than not, broadcasting is more cock-up than conspiracy. She does that, but in doing so, she also shows us that in a fast moving news environment keeping your head is everything if you are to deliver that interview.

Her interviewees range from Donald Trump at the Miss USA Beauty Pageant to Sheryl Sandberg on grief to Emma Thompson and the Chippendales on #MeToo and Theresa May after Grenfell.

The Grenfell Tower chapter is particularly poignant. Maitlis and her neighbours were volunteering after the fire, helping to find clothing, personal hygiene materials, food and shelter for the rescued residents. Interviewing Theresa May in the aftermath of a completely horrendous situation, her own feelings were less than calm.

She discusses Piers Morgan in an almost affectionate way but her best moments come when she is commenting as an aside on people or events. She relates the story of being in India to interview Bill Clinton on part of the Clinton Foundation’s work there on HIV. Afterwards, in her hotel, she is looking longingly at a cashmere pashmina when she sees the former President walk in. Embarrassed to be seen coveting such luxury after spending the day contemplating the poverty of India, she winds the pashmina over her face, only to see Bill Clinton walk over to the book table and pick up a beautifully decorated copy of the Kama Sutra.

She is very funny on her interview with the Dalai Lama, whom she slowly comes to realise will not give her a straight answer to any question she asks. It is, she reflects, just like talking to any blustering politician.

She worries about her frizzy hair, lack of sleep and hastily put on make-up when she’s out on location, yet she leaves us with the impression of a woman who is at the top of her game; who can balance the personal and the political in interviews and come out with the right mix and who is thoughtful and intelligent when considering the questions to be asked.

Airhead is anything but vacuous; it is a series of beautifully observed interviews from the interviewer’s perspective, told with compassion, wit and elegance – much like the lady herself.

Verdict: Well written, wry, perceptive and intelligent anecdotes from a well-travelled journalist.
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Emily Maitlis, Newsnight presenter, gives the low-down on some of her more memorable interviews over the last few years, such as Donald Trump, David Attenborough and even with the Dali Lama (who talked about poo!). 
She details the back story behind these moments on air - how they came about; how they ended; the compromises that were made; and the regrets, rows and comedy behind the scenes. This gives a glimpse of what really happens when Newsnight attempts to tell the stories behind the current news and simplify things down to one soundbite. Making news is an imperfect art and does not always go to plan. 

First of all, I love the title of this book! 
Emily Maitlis is indeed an airhead - a figure head of the Newsnight programme "on air" - but is also has the negative connotation of being associated with a "empty-headed woman", and any woman in television is inevitably going to struggle with this label when she is performing in a the male-dominated arena of a serious news programme. Very clever, as are you, Emily Maitlis (definitely not an empty-headed woman!)! 

She is very frank about the regrets and doubts that surface "after the event", when the often frantic atmosphere around an interview has died down. Should she have asked a particular question, or phrased it in a different way, now she has the perspective of hindsight? Of course, these are impossible questions, because you have to think on your feet in the world of news and as Emily Maitlis explains, there are many constraints that dictate how an interview turns out. It is easy to think differently looking back on things, especially when events have taken an unexpected turn later on - the election of Donald Trump, for instance. I think this shows great integrity. 

This is not a memoir, as such, but a glimpse into how news stories are made. There are only bits and pieces about how working as a television journalist affects your home and family life in the main, but there is a very personal chapter about dealing with a stalker, who has dogged Emily since university days. She has clearly found it difficult and painful to talk about this publicly, which is not a surprise. Thank you for your honesty, Emily, because I really think your openness will help others to talk about their own experiences with stalkers. 

This is a very accessible, frank and funny look into the world of news, and it has made me think about what may actually be behind the soundbites that grab the headlines.
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I thought this might be more 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 more 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 more memorable chapters featured the Dalai Lama, Piers Morgan, Emma Thompson, David Attenborough, Anthony Scaramucci and Donald Trump. Recommended!
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I was very kindly given an e-ARC of this book through Netgalley, Michael Joseph and Penguin Random House UK. 

Have you ever wondered what went into making news stories? What happened before and after the cameras began to roll, what was going through the interviewers mind when they asked the all important questions? This book, a memoir of some of the most memorable moment in journalist Emily Maitlis' career attempts to give just a small peek into the life of the Newsnight host. This is not a book about her childhood nor one about the way she got into news. Instead, it's a unique perspective on some of the most influential figures and the biggest events that have stunned global society that she has met and debated over the course of her career at Newsnight. 

Maitlis is a born writer; her prose is sharp, funny and personable. You can truly feel the emotion pouring through the pages as you read. She is a deeply empathetic person and you can see how, even when she's grilling her subjects, she has for some a great respect and for others, simmering contempt. Moreover, she is observant, as any good journalist should be and translates the small idiosyncrasies that reflection can bring into fascinating accounts of some of the world's most incredible figures. 

I have my personal favourite chapters, of course. Maitlis opens the book with her account of meeting Donald Trump at his Miss America Pageant, his Scotland golf course and his New York tower and, rather than focusing on an interview, chooses to examine her thoughts on the man himself. It's fascinating to read her opinions on him and how, though she never says she dislikes him, it's clear she has little respect for a man who would hand you rancid steak and tell you it was filet mignon. 

Some of her chapters are witty and humorous: she describes an interview with hero Jon Stewart about his film Rosewater, another where David Attenborough cleverly calls Brexit a study in anthropology, interviewing Anthony Scaramucci live on television two minutes after meeting him and even meeting some Las Vegas Chippendales to discuss the #MeToo movement. But where Maitlis really shines is in the hard hitting stuff, the interviews that were complex and messy and hard to talk about. With frankness and empathy, she talks about her interviews after Harvey Weinstein was revealed to be a predator: one with actress Emma Thompson and the other with Weinstein's former assistant. With great emotion she discusses the aftermath of the Grenfell Fire, which happened in her community, and her volunteering at pop-up shelters for members of her neighbourhood who needed help. Her criticism of the government is most biting here: she interviewed Theresa May shortly after and is, as she writes, dissatisfied with the response of the PM. She writes of her dispatches from Budapest, where migrants from Syria gathered, hoping to find a better life in Europe. 

This book is excellent. A series of snapshots that run together with the knowledge we are being let into an exclusive club, one that viewers don't get to see once Newsnight has gone off the air. 'Airhead' is honest, funny, personable and most importantly, necessary. A great study in human psychology by one of Britain's finest journalists. 

'Airhead: The Imperfect Art of Making News' by Emily Maitlis will be released in the UK on May 28th, 2019.
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Emily Maitlis gives a fascinating glimpse into the time, planning and hard work that go into securing high profile interviews and producing broadcast news. She is down-to-earth and witty as she explains that despite all the effort there are always chance elements - such as timing - which can affect whether the finished piece goes viral or misses the mark. I was really impressed by how she admits that although a professional and experienced, she has fears and self-doubt and chooses to continue despite that. I also found it a timely reminder that news items are crafted and packaged for us, this book allows us to see behind the scenes and get a wider perspective as to what happens off camera. A great read.
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I know some people will get this book and be disappointed, so let me make this point straight away.  This is NOT an autobiography.  Emily Maitlis thus gives us here a memoir of noticeable events in her career as a TV journalist which will make you think, cringe and laugh.  We are given some idea of what her job involves and the problems that can occur, such as interviews that were supposed to appear not doing so, and the myriad other problems that arise.

As I am sure most people are aware, when it comes to recording something live things can and do go wrong.  People who were supposed to appear for interviews get held up due to heavy traffic or other incidents, equipment can malfunction, and also interviews can go off course as time runs out to ask certain questions that the host would like to have answered.  

We find ourselves thus taken on a journey through some very interesting moments and interviews where things may not have gone according to plan, and certain questions may not have been asked, and at the same time being given the reasons why certain pieces turned out as they did.  If you are a bit of a news junkie then you will obviously lap this book up, but conspiracy theorists will probably claim this is some sort of whitewash, as they along with certain elements of the Leave campaign try to tell us that the BBC lie to us and feed false information.  Of course they are not, it is those who think that they are that are actually giving us fake news, and alternative facts.

I know some people want to go into journalism and TV, hoping to be the next big investigative journalist to blow open a story or make that ground-breaking interview, and thus this book is something that you should read, as a simple promise of being interviewed is the easy part.  We can see that some people are as vacuous as you have probably expected, some are highly manipulative or with their heads stuck up their own backsides, but that others are actually quite honest and thoughtful, quite willing to admit their own mistakes and faults.

Reminding us all that the world is a funny old place, I must admit that some days I put the TV on to watch the news and associated programmes and wonder to myself if I am really living in a novel by Kafka.  The author also writes frankly about her own problems with being stalked.   Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an eARC.
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