Emily Maitlis smiles at the camera. She stands against a black background.
BBC journalist Emily Maitlis has been announced as this year’s Big Read author.

Award-winning broadcast journalist Emily Maitlis has been confirmed as the author of this year’s Big Read book.

Airhead: The Imperfect Art of Making News was selected from a shortlist for the 2020 edition of the UK-wide university shared reading scheme; Edge Hill University is taking part for the third time.

The Big Read is an award-winning initiative which creates a sense of community by posting all new undergraduate students of participating universities a free copy of the chosen title, providing a common talking point.

The project, led by Kingston University, has an even bigger role to play this year while current students work remotely and new students face many challenges due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Alison Clark, Student Success Manager for Edge Hill, said: “The Big Read project is all about creating connections: reaching out to new students, making them feel welcome at Edge Hill and giving them something in common with their fellow students.

“Now, more than ever, many young people are feeling isolated and cut off from their peers because of social distancing measures and disruption to their education.

“We’re determined that we won’t let Covid-19 stop us pushing ahead with this excellent and popular project.”

Emily Maitlis recorded this message in response to the Big Read announcement.

Emily Maitlis, a BBC journalist well known for presenting Newsnight, said it was a huge honour to be selected as this year’s chosen Big Read author. 

Emily, who was named Network Presenter of the Year at the RTA Television Journalism Awards for two years running, said she wanted to share the reality of being a broadcast news journalist with students. 

“I wrote the book partly because I wanted to share my mistakes,” she explained. 

“I wanted to share the things that go wrong as well as the things that go right and that seems, to me, particularly important when you’re starting out – to know that we’ve all done it wrong so many times before it goes right.” 

New undergraduate students will be sent a copy of Emily’s book in June ahead of a programme of online engagement activity over the summer designed to help them connect with the Edge Hill community and each other; a book signing and talk by Emily Maitlis herself is also in the long-term plan.

Existing students can pick up a copy of Airhead from one of the Big Read Book Swap locations when the campus reopens.

During her career, Emily has interviewed some of the most influential and fascinating individuals of our age, including naturalist Sir David Attenborough, the Dalai Lama, US President Donald Trump and HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York. 

In Airhead, students will be taken behind the scenes to catch a rare glimpse of the before, during and after of these interviews, through Maitlis’ eyes. 

Through the initiative, Emily also hopes to learn from students in this next chapter of her book’s success. 

“I think I have got so much to learn from all of you now, embarking on your courses, your studying and your careers,” she added. 

Since Edge Hill has joined the scheme, the Big Read books have been The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman; previous years featured My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal, The Humans by Matt Haig and About a Boy by Nick Hornby.