After stepping down as host of ABC’s 7.30 program in 2022, Leigh Sales has spoken of what it means to her to be able to return to the network she has called home since 1995 in her new anchor role with Australian Story.
Sales originally made the announcement that she was stepping away from the 7.30 program on February 10, 2022, telling viewers she would leave the desk in June 2022 following the Federal Election.
The veteran journalist delivered her final show on Thursday, June 30, 2022 with an emotional sign-off after more than a decade of hard-hitting interviews.
Now in a recent interview with ABC, Sales opened up about her new role as host of Australian Story, revealing that “it means a lot”.
“I’ve been spending recent weeks doing a deep dive into the Australian Story archives, suggesting program ideas, learning their workflows and meeting their team,” she revealed.
“The thing that most amazes me with Australian Story is how high the quality of the program has been for so long, and how much they do on so few resources. They are an incredibly talented and motivated team with terrific leaders.
“It means a lot to me to host this program, mostly because I’ve always thought it’s brilliant. I am also a huge admirer of the original executive producer, Deborah Fleming, and the original presenter, the late Caroline Jones. When I was 21 in Brisbane and just starting out, Deb gave me a shot at doing some stories for the local version of 7.30 and she was really helpful and encouraging, even though I was so green.
“She has kept in touch and been a great encourager all through my career. I think she did an amazing thing starting Australian Story. It was so far ahead of its time. Caroline was also the most wonderful source of support over the years, not just to me but to so many journalists. She was such a warm and positive person, always with a kind word or email. The current leaders, Rebecca Latham and Caitlin Shea, carry on the tradition admirably.”
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After stepping down as host of 7.30, Sales delighted fans when she announced her new gig and her return to television screens.
Sales took to social media to share the news with her loyal fans, stating that she feels “lucky” to take on hosting duties for the “brilliant program” and that it was “very humbling” to be chosen as anchor given the show has only previously had one other permanent host, the first being the late Caroline Jones.
“I’ve got some news to share,” she told her fans in a video posted to Instagram.
“I am going to be, next year, anchoring the Australian Story program for the ABC.
“I’m so thrilled and excited about that because as you know it’s one of the most popular shows on the network.
“It’s such a brilliant program with such a history of making the most beautiful shows and telling the most moving stories.”
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Speaking to Mediaweek, ABC acting director of entertainment and specialist Jennifer Collins said Sales is “a perfect fit for Australian Story”.
“It’s really exciting, we love Leigh. She’s got such a great intelligence, creativity, and a great heart,” Collins said.
“It’s such a great series that is able to tell those personal stories in such illuminating ways. Year on year, Australian Story continues to deliver, and I think having Leigh at the helm of that is only going to strengthen that for us.”
Sales has a long history with the network, having jumped on board with the ABC in Brisbane in 1995 as a junior reporter before securing a number of senior roles within the news organisation, such as NSW State Political Reporter and National Security Correspondent.
She covered the Iraq War, the 2004 US Presidential election, Guantanamo Bay and Hurricane Katrina and served as ABC’s Washington correspondent from 2001-2005.
The Walkley Award-winning journalist was appointed as presenter of 7.30 in December 2010, during her time with the program Sales covered the terms of five Prime Ministers, nine federal budgets and two federal elections. She also reported on several major news events, including Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory and the death of Nelson Mandela in 2013.