Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis: ‘Broadcasting During This Pandemic Is Like Nothing I’ve Ever Lived Through’

The BBC presenter tells Grazia how her working day has changed as a result of unfolding world events.

Emily Maitlis

by As told to Jess Barrett |
Updated on

In many ways I think broadcasting life has changed less for me than for many others. I still go in to present Newsnight from Broadcasting House three times a week. And a televised podcast on the Friday. But nowadays I don’t go in until much later - after the Downing Street{ =nofollow}press conference has finished. The building is eerily quiet now. The lifts are empty. The desks are empty. Our meetings are a maximum of two in a room. But somehow it’s still a great office atmosphere, which I think we’re all grateful to have.

We start the day with a home Zoom conference call at 10:45am. It’s become such a great way of sharing stories and raising issues and just hearing other voices I would fully expect that to remain a staple even after things return to whatever form they do.

That call lasts around half an hour. Before that I will have chatted to my editor of the day about the stories that interest us most. And once it’s finished we tend to chat again to put a running order in place. Then I start to make a few calls - reaching out to guests we are keen to get on the show: that becomes much easier when everyone is working from home.

Once I get the running order sent to me, I start reading around the subjects, putting thoughts together. I don’t sit down and write until around 2pm in case things have shifted. I tend to write between 2-3pm and then take the dog for a walk. Having that fresh air break is so good for your head - that moment tends to consolidate or shift my sense of the way the news is developing. And I come back ready to rewrite everything from scratch if I need to.

I watch the news conference whilst cooking up some supper and then head in to work proper. The roads of central London are extraordinary now. It takes me 11 minutes by car.

The Newsnight office is much, much emptier now as most producers are working from home - but actually having that sense of preparing for something together, working to a deadline, trying to fathom the stories we should be prioritising is very reassuring.

We are on later (10:45pm) as we share a studio with the Ten O’Clock News, which needs fewer staff. But our audience has stayed with us - actually grown quite significantly. And our guests on the show have been first rate. I think for the first time ever, no one is too worried about late bedtime and early starts.

One of the nicest things during this whole period has been the daily messages we have had from viewers. It feels like everyone is engaged not only with the story but in helping to find solutions – medical, technological, scientific, manufacturing. People are writing in to us with ideas and offers, questions and sometimes answers. It’s so lovely to have that relationship – and I try to answer as many as I can personally. It feels like a massive community effort unlike anything I’ve lived through before.


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