BBC news anchor ponders Chiswick move

Emily Maitlis talks to Maxine Briggs about life and work

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Emily Maitlis is being touted as the BBC’s new golden girl and it’s not hard to see why. The 33-year-old BBC London News anchor has, in a short space of time, made the early evening news slot her very own, attracting nearly one million viewers every weekday night between 6.30 and 7pm.

The Beeb poached her three years ago from Sky News, where she’d anchored their main bulletins, breaking major national and international news stories, including the fall of Belgrade and the Concorde crash.

But it was in Hong Kong where she first earned her journalist stripes, working as a Business Correspondent for NBC Asia. “I discovered a real passion for journalism, the whole buzz of a news room and working in television for the first time,” she says.

It’s clear from talking to her that her passion hasn’t dimmed. “On BBC London, I get in to work by about 12pm, having already listened to the whole of the Today programme on Radio 4 and having read at least two newspapers. So if I come in and they can surprise me by something that has happened whilst I have been on the tube I’m really annoyed,” she laughs. Emily writes over half of all the scripts so she is very connected to the news and guests when reporting. “I love the banter that we have in the office and the writing which I adore, and I love a good ‘grilly’ – a tough interview – too.”

She brings a certain edge to the job – not just through her tough, yet approachable reporting style but sartorially too. Always glamorously dressed, Emily looks as though she has just popped in to the studio on her way to a very stylish dinner party! She pops down to make-up and wardrobe at 2.30pm, ready to do the quick afternoon bulletin at 3.30pm. “Then everyone cracks on writing and booking interviews – it can be right up to the wire as we try and get as
much as the show written by 5.30pm, perfecting the headlines by 6pm and working on the live element,” she explains.

The show lasts just half an hour and in that time Emily will cover a broad range of stories from the Tsunami Relief effort in London, to how a 96-year-old woman from Stoke Newington has just become a billboard model. Like most TV presenters, Emily is a perfectionist when it comes to her own performance. “If I feel like I’ve done a good job, then I can switch off, have a glass of wine and relax,” she says. “But if I feel I’ve messed up, I lie there until four in the morning and I can’t let it go. When I was at Sky, I interviewed someone from the Foreign Office, and I called them ‘Dad’ by mistake, live on air. I completely lost it after that.”

After a quick de-brief at 7pm, Emily is away from the studio and hares home to Hammersmith, and the four-storey terraced house she shares with her six-month-old son Milo Atticus and banker husband Mark. Being near the river was the major attraction, as was being close to one of their favourite haunts – The River Café on River Court Road. “ They are very friendly to locals there – after a run along the river, we pop in looking totally dreadful and say if we promise to go home and shower will you find us a table in half an hour,” laughs Emily.

That’s not to say Emily loves everything about her local area. “I still have to be very careful walking round there at night – I would love to see more policemen and better street lighting. I wouldn’t let a girlfriend walk home late at night. And I’ve like to see more litter collection – as I’m not sure how brilliantly we are served – and street cleaning. It lifts my heart when I see them cleaning the streets!” she explains.

But it’s the neighbours that have really helped Mark and Emily feel at home in W6. “Our neighbours are so incredibly supportive and friendly, one lady two doors down knitted Milo a whole load of clothes even before he was born,” she says. “The area is also very good for being child-friendly with a gym where Milo can go swimming and a really sweet old-fashioned village hall with a massive carpet covered in toys.”

Loco Restuarant, also in Emily’s little black book, is on the Munster Road and is very pram-friendly according to Emily. “I also love a little coffee shop called Tintos on the Fulham Palace Road, which has the best chocolate brownies in London, no in Britain,” Emily laughs.
After Hong Kong and Hammersmith, it seems that Hollywood could be the next step in Emily’s career. “I’ve been offered a tiny part in Robert Downey Jnr’s next movie but they’re still waiting for the funding so I’m not holding my breath!” she laughs.

But before Hammersmith gets too excited about its celebrity resident, Emily and Mark are planning to move this year and have set their sights on Chiswick. “We want to move before Milo begins to walk and although I am passionate about my herb garden I would love some more
outdoor space.”

Nearer home, she would like to turn her attention to the political world. “My favourite memory on the show was when I interviewed the Prime Minister and he really took me by surprise because he admitted that he’s got Ken Livingstone all wrong. The interview led all the main bulletins on the other stations. I was so glad I asked him that question. I’d love to do more politics, presenting programmes about it, as I’m fascinated by that side of things.”

Time has ticked on, and I leave Emily to work on the evening’s bulletin. After we say goodbye, I look over my shoulder and there’s Emily back in the thick of it – clearly loving every minute.

Maxine Briggs

This article first appeared in The Green, February 2005.

January 28, 2005