Emily Maitlis is a British-Canadian journalist and news presenter for the BBC. Maitlis was born in Canada and raised in Sheffield, UK where her father was an academic and her mother a foreign language tutor. The family travelled a lot, exposing the children to various cultures of the world. After her schooling, Maitlis studied English at Cambridge University. She dabbled with the idea of a career in the theatre before deciding to take up a tutoring job in Hong Kong. Finding herself in Hong Kong, during the handover of power years, Maitlis felt the urge to be a part of the changes and took a job at a broadcasting station. She had found her calling. She went on to live in Hong Kong for six more years working for various news agencies including NBC Asia as a reporter, documentary maker and presenter. It was also in Hong Kong that she met her future husband. Moving back to the UK she worked for Sky News finally joining the BBC. She has been at the forefront of political reporting and covered important events like the refugee crisis in Europe and three US Presidential Elections. When she was made a presenter at BBC’s Newsnight, critics commented that it was more because of her looks than her knowledge of the news. Maitlis does not pay much heed to such criticism or comments about her wardrobe but maintains that television being a visual medium, looks are important. Maitlis is currently one of the lead presenters of BBC’s Newsnight.
Childhood & Early Life
Emily Maitlis was born on September 6, 1970, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Her father, Peter Maitlis, was a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Sheffield. Her mother, Marion Maitlis, studied Italian and tutored at home and at 60 she retrained as a psychotherapist.
Maitlis had two older sisters Nicky and Sally. They grew up in Sheffield. During their childhood, they travelled to many places around the world and got exposed to different cultures. Their parents also taught them transcendental meditation. It was from her mother that Maitlis got her penchant for languages.
Maitlis went to the King Edward VII school. Unlike most ‘Newsnight’ presenters she did not attend a private school. At school, she was known to be mischievous and fun.
Maitlis attended Queen’s College, Cambridge. She had enjoyed performing in plays during her school days and had given serious thought to pursuing the dramatic arts. Deciding that she wasn’t a good enough actress she studied English instead.
She got three job offers after leaving University. One was in Sacramento as a theatre director intern, the other job was in South Africa and it involved developing schools, and the third was a teaching job in Hong Kong.
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In 1992, Emily Maitlis went to Hong Kong armed with her knowledge of Spanish, Italian and French as a language tutor. Once in Hong Kong, she started learning Mandarin and also enrolled for a postgraduate degree at the University of Hong Kong.
It was a time of change in Hong Kong which was being handed over to China by the British. Desiring to be more than a bystander in the historical and political changes around her she got a job in the broadcast service ‘Radio Television Hong Kong’.
Maitlis went on to work in Hong Kong for news organisations like the ‘Television Broadcast’ where she produced ‘The Pearl Report’.
She then joined ‘NBC Asia’ travelling to Philippines and Cambodia making documentaries. She even landed up in jail for a short while when she was covering the ‘Khmer Rouge’.
In 1997, Maitlis became a presenter in Hong Kong for ‘NBC Asia’ and covered the fall of the ‘Tiger Economies’. In the same year, she worked for ‘Channel 4 News’ as an assistant for Jon Snow covering the handover of power from Britain to China.
Back in the UK, from 1998 to 2001, she worked for ‘Sky News’ as a business correspondent and presenter.
In 2001, she joined BBC as a presenter when the ‘BBC London News’ was relaunched. During this decade she was the presenter for various BBC programmes such as ‘BBC News’, ‘BBC Breakfast’ and ‘STORYFix’.
From 2006 Maitlis became a presenter for BBC’s flagship news programme ‘Newsnight’ which had been more of a male bastion till then. She went on to become the lead presenter of the show and continues to work there.
In 2012, she traveled to the US for covering the presidential elections. She presented the election coverage along with David Dimbleby for ‘BBC One’ and ‘BBC News’.
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She was also on the campaign trail for the 2016 US presidential elections and covered campaigns of all the candidates including Donald Trump. Incidentally, she had earlier in her career interviewed Trump when he was a businessman.
In November 2019, the ‘Newsnight’ team was granted an interview of Britain’s Prince Andrew by Maitlis regarding the Jeff Epstein controversy. Prince Andrew spoke openly to Maitlis, however, the interview did not go down well with the British public and the Prince had to withdraw from all royal public duties.
Emily Maitlis was accused of being “sneering and bullying” towards pro-Brexit Rod Liddle during a ‘Newsnight’ interview on 15 July 2019. The ‘BBC Executive Complaints Unit’ conducted an investigation and concluded that she had not been even-handed in conducting the discussion between Liddle and Brexit opponent Tom Baldwin.
In 2019, Emily Maitlis published ‘Airhead: The Imperfect Art of Making News’. In the book, she examines the interviews she has done in the past and mulls over the questions that she did not ask. She also looks back at events she had covered which went on to become significant later on.
Family & Personal Life
Emily Maitlis met her future husband, Mark Gwynne, an investment banker, while she was working in Hong Kong. In 2000 while on a holiday in Mauritius, she proposed to him and suggested they get married on the beach during their holiday. He accepted the proposal but rejected the suggestion to get married then and there.
Maitlis is Jewish and Mark Gwynne is Catholic. For their wedding ceremony, they had a rabbi as well as a priest. The couple has two sons Milo and Max.
Maitlis’s Jewish paternal grandmother had fled Nazi Germany. Maitlis often wears a gold bracelet which was made out of one of the bangles of her grandmother.
Maitlis is actively involved in many charities like ‘Action for Children’, ‘World Jewish Relief’ ‘Debate Mate’ and ‘World Child’.
In 2002, it came to be known that an old university friend of Maitlis’s had been stalking her for 10 years. He was taken to court but the stalking continued despite the restraining orders and prison sentences. In February 2020, the stalker was imprisoned for three more years.