Interview with Broadcaster and Journalist Brenda Emmanus

We are very grateful to Brenda Emmanus for sharing a few things with us. Brenda is currently Art, Culture and Entertainment correspondent for BBC London News.


What advice would you give to child at school that wants to be on the television? How do you get to a starting point?

Anything that you have a passion for is definitely worth experiencing. Television is such an exciting medium to work in and is constantly changing, allowing for a wealth of varied opportunities and experiences. That is what gets me up in the morning. The starting point would be to focus on the specific areas that you feel you would enjoy in terms of subject matter, your strengths and interests, whether you wish to be a ‘front’ person or behind the scenes. Gaining experience and building networks and contacts is priceless in this industry, so seizing any opportunity that comes your way as well as creating your own opportunities would be a fine start.

How much research do you need to do before appearing on screen?

Preparation is everything as far as I am concerned. It gives you the confidence to do the job, it shows respect for interviewees and audiences and is all part of being professional. Admittedly, there will be times when you are just thrown a story and have to make it work – but even then you should do your best to know the basics and then be driven by the natural curiosity that would motivate your desire for journalism and working in this industry.

How is live work different to preparing pre recorded material?

There is a very different energy to live work – some people thrive off and love the immediacy of it all. Once it’s done , it’s done – warts and all. Pre-recorded material allows for the opportunity to think about creative ways of presenting your work, of adding extra elements and having more material to share across different platforms – with your radio and online team for example. I love working with an editor and making films so I get a real buzz from that. Having said that, there is a real thrill to getting a brilliant interview with a celebrity on the red carpet that reflects a good relationship between you both and fabulous answers to your questions.

What are most frustrating parts of being on television?

Frustration can come from having lots of information and footage and a limited amount of time to share it. Deadlines are a constant pressure but help to develop both discipline and professionalism. People can sometimes have a warped perception about what people working in television are like (admittedly the stereotypes can occasionally be justified). Admittedly, as a women I think we are still in a position where we are judged by our appearance more harshly than our male counterparts, and that growing older and wiser can work against us.

How hard is celebrity? Do you find it a nuisance?

How hard is celebrity? I would not know! I don’t consider myself such. I am a working journalist who happens to spend most of my life interviewing celebrities, artists, and creative people. They have my sympathy as I don’t feel I could honestly cope with living my life forever in the gaze of public scrutiny. I love having a private life. I also find the title ‘celebrity’ slightly dubious as it tends to cover anyone in the limelight despite their level of talent and genuine contribution to the world.

What is your view on the Internet and social media? Is it a blessing or a curse?

I think social media is both a blessing and a curse. Social tools can be the most effective and supportive way of telling stories and sharing news rapidly. They can be a beneficial tool to our trade, but I detest our obsession with sharing the most random and trivial parts of our lives with anyone and everyone. We can create such false impressions of idealised worlds on social media that lead to more insecurity and unhappiness. What really concerns me are people that use social media to destruct people’s lives and souls. Cyber bullies are dangerous and sad. When we become obsessed with our lives on Twitter and Facebook we can often neglect the things that really matter – like genuine connection and love.

How interested do you need to be in the material that you cover? How easy is it to fake interest?

I think it pays to have a genuine interest in the subjects that you cover. Working in the media is all about the love of communication and sharing. It’s about building relationships and connecting with audiences. This is so much easier if it is coming from a place of authenticity. You can and sometimes have to take a professional as opposed to passionate approach to material you don’t have a genuine affinity with, but don’t you just love watching anyone, be it child, adult or elder when they are fuelled with enthusiasm. It’s as contagious as laughter.

Out of everything you have done in your career so far what are your highlights?

Highlights to date: Meeting Muhammad Ali in Atlanta, being flown to Texas to interview Clint Eastwood, interviewing Idris Elba numerous times, meeting Robert Di Nero and Archbishop Desmond Tutu; kisses on the cheek from Will Smith, spending time chatting to David Hockney , seeing James Brown live before his death, a hug from Matt Damon, working on The Clothes Show and my current job!

Is there anyone you would like to interview that you have not as of yet?

I have been blessed in that I have been able to meet a lot of the great people that I respect, admire or fancy! There are some celebrities and people working in the arts that I never tire of meeting ( Dame Judi Dench, Will Smith, designer Paul Smith. Dancer Carlos Acosta and Catherine Tate to name a few……) but still on my wish list are Michelle Obama, actress Olivia Coleman, writer Shonda Rhimes and a full sit down chat and gossip with Adele.

What was it like working with Richard and Judy on This Morning?

Working with Richard and Judy on This Morning was a constant hoot. They were very good to me and very supportive. I loved my time working in fashion and styling their guests was such a delight. Television is such a collaborative process and the teams that support those of us in front of the camera are the unsung heroes of what we do – their team was fab, as is mine here at BBC London News.

How do you make your work fit in with family commitments? Do you talk about work at home or is there a cut off.

Juggling work and family life is my toughest challenge. It has never been easy but I am blessed with a brilliant support network of family and friends. My daughter is a brilliant soul and has got used to my lifestyle – I get her involved as much as I can and tag her along whenever the opportunity allows. She loves art and creativity so that helps. I have not learnt yet not to feel guilty about not always being around but I do my best to give my loved ones quality time. I do take my work home with me and share my experiences but if there are things that are deemed more important, then family is always my priority.

What do you think is next for you?

I think the rest of my life will be spent working with or in the creative industries. I love television and would like to continue working in the medium. I am about to start work on a documentary about Tate Modern with Andrew Marr for the BBC which should be exciting, and would love to do more long form programmes. I still have the desire to co-present a studio programme or series – could be arts, fashion, travel , lifestyle or popular psychology/personal development. So much to do…….so little time!!!