After university, Illner worked as a television journalist at Deutscher Fernsehfunk, East German state television, until it was dissolved in 1991. She joined German broadcaster ZDF and co-presented Morgenmagazin, a weekday morning show from 1992. She became the head of the Morgenmagazin in 1998.
From October 1999 Illner presented an evening talk show originally titled Berlin Mitte, but changed in March 2007 to Maybrit Illner. In addition, she moderated the TV election debates between Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his challengers Edmund Stoiber (2002) and Angela Merkel (2005). In 2006, she interviewed President of Russia Vladimir Putin. She also interviewed Merkel shortly before the 2009 elections.
Since 2013, Illner has been focusing on her own political talkshow Maybrit Illner. Alongside Anne Will, Peter Kloeppel and Stefan Raab, she also moderated the only TV election debate between incumbent Merkel and her competitor Peer Steinbrück ahead of the 2013 elections, which was aired live on four of Germany's most-watched television channels during prime-time. Ahead of the 2017 elections, she moderated the debate between Merkel and Martin Schulz, this time with Kloeppel, Sandra Maischberger and Claus Strunz.
She was married to fellow television journalist Michael Illner (born 1962) from 1988 to 2007. She married René Obermann, at that time CEO of Deutsche Telekom, on 14 August 2010 at Schloss Ulrichshusen. They live in Berlin and Bonn.
For the German Red Cross (DRK), Illner has travelled to Iraq in 2003 and Pakistan in 2004. In 2018, she chaired the jury for the annual Ludwig-Börne-Preis, which awarded the prize to journalist Souad Mekhennet.
- 2000: Hanns-Joachim-Friedrichs-Award for critical and independent television journalism
- 2001: Hans-Klein-Media Award for their moderation of the ZDF talk show Berlin Mitte
- 2002 and 2007: Bambi
- 2003: Bayerischer Fernsehpreis
- 2004: German Television Award for Best Information Programme
- 2006: Hildegard von Bingen Award (according to the prize jury Illner understood transforming "the Anglo-Saxon form of information, Talk 'in a separate and unique media event")
- 2009: Goldene Kamera in the category Best Information
- Frauen an der Macht. 21 einflussreiche Frauen berichten aus der Wirklichkeit. Hugendubel, Kreuzlingen, München 2005, ISBN 3-7205-2649-6.
- Politiker-Deutsch/Deutsch-Politiker. Langenscheidt, München, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-468-73190-7.
- (with Ingke Brodersen) Ente auf Sendung. Von Medien und ihren Machern. Deutsche Verlags Anstalt, München 2003, ISBN 3-421-05751-6.
- Maike Jansen (June 12, 2009), Wenn Merkel mit Seehofer Bähnchen fährt Die Welt.
- Merkel and Steinbrück prepare for German TV election debate Deutsche Welle, 1 September 2013.
- Markus Ehrenberg (September 3, 2017), So gut waren die Moderatoren Tagesspiegel.
- Maybrit Illner und René Obermann: Seid ihr alle da? Süddeutsche Zeitung, August 19, 2010.
- Ludwig-Börne-Preis Ludwig-Börne-Stiftung.
- Maybrit Illner on IMDb
- ZDF:Maybrit Illner
- Maybrit Illner in Zeit interview
- Talkshow-king Oskar Lafontaine by Lukas Hermsmeier on Cicero Online, 23. January 2009
- »Politics demands dedication« Interview by Christoph Amend, Die Zeit, 5. July 2006
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